Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Grantham Road 20mph sign

 I don't know what happens to drivers when the visit the shops at the Grantham Rd/Guildford Rd junction but they to have a propensity to bash into the street signs. The new 20 is plenty sign was hardly erected before some one knocked it and the lamp post has also suffered damage. This was all brought to my attention by the proprietor of the most excellent Chip Shop-the best fish and chips in the town (other food choices are also available) Mr Stannard. The engineers are going to move the sign in the hope of preventing it being damaged. So, if you drive that way, take care and don't bash the signs.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Piratical devices lures children

With the Ainsdale, Birkdale & Churchtown Library Group still working to try and save Southport's three threatened branch libraries, it was the main Southport Library which was under threat on Saturday when it was invaded by pirates.

The new Atkinson Library hosted a Pirates Day with more than 50 local children attending . Captain Sam Shaw (pictured with shipmate Beth Norris) led the children in a two hour festival of fun and games featuring a treasure hunt and a pirate singalong.

He said: "It was great to see so many children enjoying the new library, but not so great when they made me walk the plank!"

Captain Sam is the eldest son of my Birkdale Ward colleague Simon Shaw. Until a year ago he worked for Sefton Libraries, but left to start a History Degree at Liverpool John Moores University and hopes to become a Primary School teacher (for which he hopes that pirate costume is not compulsory all the time).

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Matlock Rd- gets the hump over proposal

Residents in Matlock Road and Bury Road are massively opposed to a Sefton Council plan to place nine road humps in the area, according to Birkdale Ward Liberal Democrat councillors.
The proposal was advertised earlier this month (in Champion of 10 April) because of concerns about the increase in traffic to be expected as a result of the enlargement of Birkdale Primary School, due for completion by September.

Last week Cllr Iain Brodie Browne and Cllr Simon Shaw (pictured) carried out a survey of people living in the area.  They found that, by a margin of more than three to one, those responding to the consultation were against the idea of road humps.
Opinions on the other Council proposal, to make Matlock Road one-way between Bury Road and Upper Aughton Road, were more evenly balanced.
“It is quite clear that residents are strongly against the idea of road humps, which is what we expected,” said Cllr Iain Brodie Browne.
“We have received responses from over two-thirds of the houses affected, which is an excellent response rate.  Of those who had a view, over 75% were opposed to humps and barely 25% in favour.”
Councillor Shaw confirmed that the Lib Dem councillors for the area would be proposing rejection when the matter comes back to the Southport Area Committee in May.
“Residents have had to endure months and months of traffic chaos while building work is carried out at Birkdale Primary School.  The Council has just introduced a 20mph Zone in the area, which we strongly support, but the idea of road humps was clearly a non-starter,” he added.

Friday, 26 April 2013

new social housing scheme opened -at last

Back in 2010
Richard in the same place today

I some times think I've pushed and pushed for too long arguing that the derelict land site off Upper Aughton Rd should be developed, but today it all seemed worth while when I went to the opening.

It all started back in 2009 when I was canvassing the street and people kept pointing out to me that the site had been boarded up for ages. They only thing that had changed was that the council had put up a sign proclaiming 'Coming Soon' . Well it didn't, and not unreasonably the locals were fed up. The council reacted to my complaints by taking down the sign with their name on it  'not us gov, honest' That was not my intention, I had hoped that they would kick start the housing association into action. They didn't.

The then owners of the site Servite Housing then got into difficulties and abandoned the NW and transferred the site to another Housing Association in Leigh. We were in the midst of the crash and it was clear that building housing especial social housing was key to recovery-it still is. My colleague Richard Hand and I decided that we needed action so we took ourselves off to Leigh back in February 2010, I told the story on the blog back then. Finally, finally we got some action and planning permission went in and today the site was officially declared open with John Pugh planting a flowering cherry tree to mark the occasion.

some of the new resident -including staff at the Southport Hospital
John and Councillors (I put on the same tie as 2010!)
The new site is name after the old Birkdale Brewery which I am told (by Maureen Fearn)  closed down during the war-that is WW2. There are so many councillors because the site although in Birkdale, is in the Kew Ward and all six of us have taken up case work to do with the site.

It is good when a campaign come off-let us hope we have equal success with some other sites we have identified, although I trust the gestation period will not be as long
some of the new homes

Miss Sarah Harding and Southport Guardian editorial

 As news filters through that Miss Sarah Harding, lately of this parish, is emerging as the front runner in the election to chair Liberal Youth my attention has been drawn to an editorial in the Southport Guardian that concludes:

So the Liberal Part both nationally and locally is acting wisely by paying attention to young politicians.  "The hope of the Liberal Party "says one writer, "is its youth" and with "youth at the prow, discretion at the helm" there is no sea in which the ship of Liberalism cannot weather; there is no port we cannot make.

Now a Young Liberal movement should play its role in the party helping at elections and Sarah has more than proved her worth both here in Southport at the last General Election and reprising the role to great effect at the Eastleigh By Election. But a Liberal Youth movement has to do more than that, it has to do with ideas. Sarah would do well to heed the advice of one of the greatest Liberals of the 20th Century, John Maynard Keynes, who wrote in his Essays in Persuasion

Half the copybook wisdom of our statesmen is based upon assumptions which were at one time true, or partly true, but are now less and less true day by day. We have to invent new wisdom for a new age. And in the meantime we must, if we are to do any good, appear unorthodox, troublesome, dangerous, disobedient to them that begat us'.

Over the 107 years of their existence the Young Liberals have been central to maintaining a challenge to the comfortable orthodoxies that parties of all hues fall in to. This has manifested itself in the progressiveness of the Edwardian period, in ideas around peace and internationalism in the inter war times, the idea of  Ownership for All that  drove the movement and the party for 50 years, championing the ideas of Beveridge and Keynes, and in the post war period being the UK expression of the the new youth politics that found its expression in The Port Huron Statement in the US and all that flowed from it; campaigns for international justice in South Africa, Nigeria and the Middle East and at home with the birth of community politics and the early recognition of Green politics.

Ideas should be at the heart of the YL's . It would be good to see a new Blackpool Essays or Scarborough Perspectives published. Radical Liberalism needs kick and the Youth  Movement should be among the folk delivering it.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Bootle Labour impose 'Green Wheelie Bin Tax' on Southport


Once again the ruling Labour clique in Bootle are seeking to imposing a 'tax' that will chiefly be paid by people living in Southport and by very few people in Bootle. This is on top of their proposals for an extra 'parking tax' 80% of which will be collected in Southport and once again few people in Bootle will have to pay.

What makes matters worse is that they are using these new 'Southport Only Taxes' to fund such schemes as the building of a new Library in the Bootle constituency whilst seeking to close down three libraries in Southport! Local residents will be rightly angry about such moves as the three Libraries ear marked by Labour for closure and amongst the most heavily used in the borough and the new one in Bootle is one of the least used! * see figures at bottom of page

Sefton Council’s plan to charge for collecting green waste – currently subject to consultation until 14 June – has come under attack from Birkdale Lib Dem Councillor Simon Shaw. Until last May, when Labour gained overall control, Simon was Cabinet Member Environmental on the Council, including responsibility for refuse collection.

"I think the Bootle Labour-dominated Cabinet are making a big mistake in proposing to charge for green waste,” says Simon.

“The suggestion is that the charge could be around £46 a year. That is going to put a lot of people off. In fact the working assumption on the part of the Council is that over 70% of households will give up their green bin.”

“I am seriously worried it could end up actually costing the Council money, rather than saving the £1 million a year that the Labour Party hope."

"The reason is that green bin garden waste costs the Council far less to dispose of than the grey bin general waste. There is a serious danger that a majority of people will abandon their green bin if they have to pay nearly £2 a time to have it emptied. If a lot of those regularly place amounts of heavy garden waste in their grey bins then the tonnage going off to expensive landfill will rocket. That will cost the Council money, as well as being bad news for the environment."

"Overall it is a bad idea, which is why Lib Dems opposed it."

Local Lib Dems are encouraging as many concerned residents as possible to respond to the consultation, which has over a month still to run, at http://www.sefton.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=12427


Items issued
Ainsdale 89,949 -       earmarked for closure in Southport
Birkdale  152,066-     earmarked for closure in Southport
Churchtown  113,201 -earmarked for closure in Southport

Netherton  35,017 -new build in Bootle

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

create local banks by breaking up state owned mega banks Archbishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury warned on Monday night that Britain was mired in an economic depression and called for major steps to drag the country out of it, including the breakup of a major bank in order to create regional lenders.

So reports the Guardian this morning-it then goes on with a peon of praise for Labour who never thought of the idea in office and ignore those (chiefly Lib Dems) who urged them to do. This tells us more about the Guardian than it does about the state of politics.
The recent Lib Dem policy drawn up after a working party on which The Disgruntled radical and Prateek Buch both served advocated precisely that.

I have always favoured the route of breaking up one of the monolithic banks Gordon Brown allowed and which is now in state ownership. I would prefer that it was and handed it over to its customers- ie creating local mutual banks. 

A recent publication puts the case:
There are three reasons for promoting mutual building societies: they are less prone than banks to pursue risky speculative activity; a mixed system produces a more stable financial sector; and a stronger mutual sector enhances competition within the financial system. The banking crisis highlighted the importance of retaining diverse models of financial service providers, and while mutuals were affected by the recession, they were not themselves responsible for causing the recession, as were private banks. The UK Government needs to secure a financial return for the failed financial institutions it nationalised and a low level of overall economic risk for the taxpayer. Given a trade-off, the long-run benefits of financial sustainability and reduced risk, plus enhanced competition, need to be given proper weighting compared with any short run gain through a trade sale and the repayment of the government's support. 

One of the authors, Johnathon Michie, produced a report for Kellogg College Oxford showing how the bank could be mutualised and the government's investment repaid over an agreed period.This has always appealed to me as the last thing we need is another plc owned bank whose sole objective is to 'build shareholder value'. We need institutions who long term objectives is serving those who save and borrow from them and to who they are responsible. 

It is interesting that the most recent figures I have seen should that a small mutual Building Society, The Furness, leant more to homeowners and businesses that Lloyds!

Anyway the Archbishop is to be applauded for his contribution as he says:

Problems were created when banks became distant from the communities they served, he said. "At least part of the banking system should be local".
The Anglican leader said the simplest solution to recreate a local banking system was "recapitalising at least one of our major banks and breaking it up into regional banks".
He cautioned against allowing the banking system to become too concentrated in the mistaken belief that it was safer. "As a bank, you can be big and simple or small and complicated, and do well. If you get big and complicated, you become unmanageable," he said.

Sadly no one got through to Gordon Brown with that message

Lords defeat 'farrago of nonsense' scheme to swap rights for shares. More Lib Dem Peers needed next time

Congratulations to the House of Lords who last night voted down -for a second time- Osborne's batty scheme to allow employees to swap shares in excahnge for their employment rights. Beecroft by the backdoor as it has been called. I note that the majority against the scheme was bigger second time around.

If I'm reading the lobby list properly the opponents included: Paddy Ashdown, David Steel, Shirley Williams, Dick Taverne, Mathew Oakeshott, Ros Scott and Ronnie Fearn. Sal Brinton made the key Lib Dem speech opposing the move.

I was also struck by :

Baroness Warnock: My Lords, noble Lords may be somewhat surprised that I speak on this issue, but it so happens that I have spent a great deal of the past few months looking into employee shareholding and employee ownership and have had long discussions with Charlie Mayfield, who, as noble Lords know, is chairman of the John Lewis Partnership. He was consulted about this proposal and simply regarded it as laughable.

22 Apr 2013 : Column 1262
What kind of firms did the Government really have in mind when they invented this farrago-it seems to me-of nonsense? I believe that they had in mind the smallish high-tech firms that set up outside Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol and so on. They thought that all the people employed by this kind of firm were going to be high-tech experts and graduates of their local universities and that the company would be inventive and innovative and, when it got bigger, would probably sell itself off, having made a profit. I do not think, when this was invented, that the Government had in mind that large companies would really have any interest. In fact, I remember that on Report the Minister was reduced to saying, "Well, the good thing about this is that not very many people will take it up". That seemed to be an extraordinary argument in favour of it. Does the Minister really think that this will be an option open universally to businesses, including retail and manufacturing ones, or is he still thinking, as I am sure the Government were at first, of these very small businesses where everyone starts off more or less equal-equally well educated, intelligent and able to get legal advice-and is anyway probably in it for the interest of the thing and its short-term life? 

The Employee Ownership Association put out a statement:

EOA Welcome Lords Defeat for Rightsfor Shares Proposals

Iain Hasdell, CEO of the Employee Ownership Association welcomes the removal of the Chancellor’s “Rights for Shares” measures from the Growth and Infrastructure Bill on behalf of the UKs employee owned businesses.

Speaking after the Government Bill was amended in the House of Lords to remove the section (Clause 27) Hasdell said:  “I am delighted to see that the now infamous rights for shares scheme has been overturned by the House of Lords. Our member businesses and the employee owners within them were alarmed that the Government’s proposals might redefine employee ownership as a model in which worker rights on such matters as redundancy and unfair dismissal have to be sacrificed by employees in order for them to be allowed an ownership stake in the business in which they work.

“We have consistently told Ministers and Parliamentarians that that there is no need to dilute the rights of workers in order to grow employee ownership, and it is gratifying to see that Peers from all parties including Lord Adonis, Baroness Brinton, Lord Deben and Baroness Howe have listened to our concerns and joined together to remove, for the time being at least, this flawed concept from the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.”

He continued: “Employee ownership in the UK is growing and the businesses concerned thriving, because they enhance not dilute the working conditions and entitlements of employee owners. If the estimated £100m of cost associated with these proposals can be more wisely invested in initiatives to increase employee ownership in the UK, including investing some of it to implement the recommendations contained in the Nuttall Review, we will reach our target of 10% of GDP being created by employee owned businesses far faster.”

To encourage growth in the UK, we need strong companies which can provide great products and services over the long term, we need the following reforms to be introduced: full text here

I see a FT journalist has tweeted

Lib Dems HATE the policy, so it is they who are now the ones pushing for more compromises -- Osborne will be cross....

Monday, 22 April 2013

Labour downgrades scrutiny again

None of us were surprised when the ruling Bootle Labour partystarted to downgrade the routes that allowed scruting of their actions

  • Firstly they took the chairs of all the scrutiny committees and filled them with their placemen and women-they even took the chair of Audit which even 'one party states' is usually chaired by an opposition councillor
  • Then they reduced the number of Area Committee meetings-you can see their nervousness because they do not have an overall majority on some of them
  • then the denigrate question time at Full Council by giving mono syllabic answers or not answering at all (As a past cabinet member I am well aware that Officers will have prepared answers to the questions asked-and yes I know what to do, it is in hand) What contempt for the rights of ordinary voters whose elected representatives ask perfectly proper questions on their behalf.
The Area committee issue is very important. Sefton is a dog's breakfast of an Authority where the towns and villages have very little to do with each other and often look to towns outside the boundaries of the borough. To cope with these issue Area Committees were introduced. When the Boundary Commission last looked at the desire of Southport residents to break away of the borough one of the 'trump cards' played against the proposal was that these differences would be better managed in future because -under our leadership- the council was moving to a 'devo max' solution giving the Area Committees responsibility for their communities. No more, the Bootle Labour party clings to all the power.

In Sefton Central the merging of Formby, Crosby, and the Eastern Parishes -centred on Maghull-into one committee is nonsense. There is no community of interest between Melling and Formby- and no transport links between them if the public wanted to attend. So now in this area instead of 18 meetings a year where effective accountability could have been exercised that has been axed to just 4 meetings. They don't like accountability

The Labour Leader played is 'get out of jail card'. It is the wicked coalition that has made us save money . Now the saving is small and could easily be found. Let me suggest two ways; hold joint meetings with the Parish Councils and secondly lets look at the allowances paid to the Labour members chairing Scrutiny and Review. They cancel meetings at the drop of a hat and one calculation I saw last year suggested that their allowance mounted to nigh on £1000 a meeting. Cut the cost of Labour patronage and democracy and accountability will flourish

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely" arose as part of a quotation by the expansively named and impressively hirsute John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902)- a friend of Mr Gladstone and Mary Gladstone. The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887:

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Stop press Liberal Candidate dies-update

The Birkdale blog has covered the contribution made to Southport Liberalism before by David Bentliff. Today we bring you the front page of the Southport Guardian that reported his death. He died on this day 21st April 1953.

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 only 109 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.

David Bentliff 1952

Bob Martin (Liberal candidate in 1945- and yes he was that Bob Martin with the patent medicine for dogs)  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.'  

Both Michael Braham and Michael Meadowcroft identify him as the Liberal with the biggest single contribution to the survival of Liberalism in the town during this period.

Two other points arise from this story. Firstly the importance of the local newspapers for keeping a record of the town's history. I am delighted to report that my campaign to have the Southport newspaper brought back to The Atkinson Library in the town from Crosby has been successful .

The important papers from a local history point of view are the Visiters, Guardians 1882-59 and the Journals from 1933 until they merge with the Visiters around 1966. It is hard to imagine  today that we had the Visiter appearing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the  Guardian on Wednesdays and Saturdays and the Journal on Fridays. The Journal and Guardian merged in 1959 and was a thereafter a Wednesday paper. The Visiter was I think the only tri weekly in the country.

The second item I noticed on the front of the Southport Guardian was the visit of the Women's Liberals to the Town Hall. In the photo on the extreme right is Madge Goldberg who I knew in the late seventies. She and her husband (Mayor of Southport and Parliamentary Candidate in 1959 where is achieved a rare 2nd place in a three cornered fight-you can read Michael Meadowcroft's account of the campaign here p16-17) were great peace campaigners amongst other things.I went with Madge to CND meetings at Liberal Assemblies

Up date...............

David Bentiff’s greatest  achievements was the  re-forming of the YL branch which did so much excellent work in the 50s .It ultimately brought the likes of Michael Meadowcroft, Bob Hughes, and Anthony Hill into the party.

 Bentliff had signed his consent to nomination as he was rushed into hospital. He died before the close of nominations which is why the election was delayed for a fortnight. We went on to  win the  delayed election in Scarisbrick Ward ( which contained large chunks of Liberal  High Park) and fittingly Bentcliff’s agent, Alan Riding was our successful candidate. I am at pains to stress that it wasn’t a By election and the sad fact remains that we have not gained a seat at a Council by-election in Southport – but not Sefton – since Sims Mitchell won Talbot Ward in December 1938. That is a truly  awful record!

The women  featured on the front of the Southport Guardian were actually delivering the nomination papers of Mrs M  Jackson who stood in Marine Ward.

I mentioned Madge and her and Sam’s pacifist views. Their son Graham was a rather wayward character according to those who knew him. Major McNichol who was a Tory councillor in Park Ward kindly suggested to Madge and Sam   that they might might  care to have Graham   enrolled in his school  so he could instill some discipline into him – McNichol was Headmaster of University School on Cambridge Road - but Sam and Madge would have none of it . It would have meant Graham doing Drill in the Cadet force and that was a complete anathema to them !

Monday, 15 April 2013

Southport the 'local housing allowance' and the bedroom tax

There is a crisis in social housing. In Southport there is a dramatic shortage of affordable housing. Our residents are living longer and-despite the borough’s falling population- we need more homes to satisfy the growing elderly population and people who live in single person households.  Many people under forty are choosing not to marry and in addition the divorce rate means that where a family used to occupy one house they now need two.

Southport had a particular combination of circumstances. Firstly we have very few social houses-ie council houses or Housing Association stock.  To be precise we have no Council houses because under extreme pressure from the last Labour government we had little choice other to transfer the stock to One Vision Housing Association in order to meet the ‘decent homes’ standard.  If my memory serves me well every Labour Councillor voted for the transfer.*  Secondly during the period under Thatcher, Blair and Brown council houses were sold off and not replaced. Thirdly we have never had a large supply of ‘social houses’ Put simply the old Southport County Borough didn’t build many. Indeed when I first came to the town in the late 70’s I remember looking up the figures and Southport C.B. had one of the smallest percentage of houses in Council ownership anywhere in Britain. Fourthly we have a large private rented sector-and certainly many of our poorest residents live in private rented accommodation.

In addition to the local factors the town has the same problems as most of the rest of the country -high under occupancy, overcrowding, rising private sector rents, poor quality buildings and above all a shortage of houses.

Stephen Tall analysed the problems recently as:
There are currently two million households in England on housing waiting lists, 250,000 families living in over-crowded accommodation and one million bedrooms standing empty. Attempts over many years — including cash incentives and help with moving — have failed to re-allocate the stock of social housing efficiently
There are over 400,000 social homes that are defined as under-occupied (more than one bedroom surplus), and 150,000 that are over-crowded. Added to that private renters were hit by their own ‘bedroom tax’ when Labour introduced the Local Housing Allowance in 2008, calculated on the same basis as the Coalition’s ‘bedroom tax’.

For Southport the ‘bedroom tax’ arrived in 2008 thanks to the Labour government. It covered private rented stock-which is the sector where the vast majority of houses available for people on low pay or benefit in the town are to be found. The major employers in the town retail, hospitality and care are all relatively low paid. The 2008 changes effectively capped housing benefit so that those in receipt of it could not rent more bedrooms than they needed-same as the coalitions ’bedroom tax’.

I fully understand why Labour introduced their ‘bedroom tax’ –or 'local housing allowance' as they chose to call it. The cost of Housing benefit was rocketing as rents were rising fast.

The Labour government had identified part of the problem but-like the Coalition- applied the wrong solution or to be more precise  addressed only part of the issue.

How did we get in the mess?  Chiefly because Labour sold off ‘social housing’ and failed to replace it. The figures make grim reading. Over their 13 years in government they sold off  500,000 homes. In fact after 13 years of Blair and Brown they had added less than 20 000 units .  The problem Labour and the Coalition faced was the same-a shortage of social housing. Neither government has faced up to the need to build more appropriate homes. Nor have the looked at the impact of their welfare policies many of which provide a subsidy for private sector landlords ( and one might add the tax credits which subsidies employers to pay low wages).

Politicians should not underestimate the resentment held by people on low wages. I was canvassing in East Birkdale recently and several people firmly brought this to my attention. They were on the minimum wage or just above and working split shifts at anti social hours.They lived in the private rented sector. They were wholly unsympathetic that their taxes were being used to give unemployed people facilities they could not provide for themselves and their families.Two of them spoke about their work colleagues-both Polish-in glowing terms. Why they asked did they motivate themselves to leave their homes and travel to Lancashire to do jobs that some locals didn't take up? I can argue against such sentiments but it is wrong to dismiss them.

I noticed that a former Labour Party Secretary General has noted the same issue on the Labour Uncut website  :

..............what we see are Labour politicians on our airwaves and on social media talking about how unfair it is that people on welfare are being penalised by the government.  It may very well be unfair but what is also unfair is that people not in receipt of welfare payments are being taxed to the hilt to pay for this.  It just seems that Labour don’t care about this as much if at all.  The impact of “standing up for” the most vulnerable may very well be that Labour risks further alienating some of our most vulnerable from those who feel genuinely cross that they are having to work hard so that others do not.

Mathew Oakeshott was making this case at the London Lib Dem conference yesterday. I am not against selling council housing. The stock doesn't disappear once it is sold and the discounts do represent one of the biggest redistribution of wealth by any government since Henry VIII -but unless we solve the overall shortage of homes the problem will persist.In Southport this was made worse by John Prescott in the last Labour Government who put a cap on the number of units we could approve.  Private landlords are-in some cases-profiteering because of the shortage of supply. The added advantage of a major social house building programme will be to kick start the economy and provide employment in one sector that has available unemployed labour

Gladstone's memorial and funeral

Thatcher's expensive funeral-signed off it is suggested by the last government-seems inappropriate in today's environment. Other PM's with a claim to greatness like Atlee and Lloyd George seem to have got the tone better. Perhaps best of all there is Gladstone. His funeral is described in the Liberal History Journal is some detail and concludes:

 Gladstone’s funeral was, in retrospect, especially remarkable for its absence of bombast. Held at the very peak of Empire, it emphasised civic, non-military, and religious values. It was striking that the British could at that moment hold a state funeral which had no soldiers and no uniforms (save those of the Heralds and of the Speaker and Lord Chancellor). 

As to the Library many will have visited it at Harwarden. Their website tells us:

He (Gladstone) endowed the library with £40,000 indicating that this was more than a hobby or a sideline: this was his major bequest. Following his death 1898, a public appeal was launched for funds to provide a permanent building to house the collection and to replace the temporary structure. The £9,000 raised provided an imposing building, designed by John Douglas, which was officially opened by Earl Spencer on October 14th 1902 as the National Memorial to W. E. Gladstone. The Gladstone family were themselves to fulfill the founder's vision by funding the residential wing, which welcomed its first resident on June 29th, 1906.

It's magnificent gothic architecture should not hide the fact that it has kept itself up to date and relevant and even has a twitter account @

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Emergency Provision Southport Rough Sleepers

Back at the end of January I received a number of letters about the emergency provision for rough sleepers in the town. I reported on it at the time. The letters were urging me to ensure that those sleeping in the open knew about the legislation which required that when the premature had fallen below a specified level for three consecutive night accommodation for them should be open.  This is a pretty minimal requirement.

I made further inquiries and it transpired that the situation was significantly worse than I had imagined. Firstly we should state that under the terms of the legislation the number of people we are dealing with is small possibly as few of half a dozen drawn from a pool of twenty or so. The individuals are well known. As the council acts at present it fulfills its statutory obligation in a most unsatisfactory way. Essentially they have contracted to use emergency provision in Liverpool run by The Whitechapel Centre. Now let me be clear I have nothing against the Whitechapel,over many years I have known their projects and some of their staff. They do good work, but they do it in Liverpool 20+ miles away.

Apparently the Council meets the letter of the law merely by telling rough sleepers on the designated nights that they can go to a Church Hall in Crown St in the middle of Liverpool. The rough sleepers are meant to get themselves there. It is wholly inappropriate and I doubt anyone take up the meaningless offer.

I have discussed this issue with locally based charities who work in the field of homelessness and it is clear to me that a Sourtport base alternative is easily be established at minimal cost. I have raised this issue with the Chief Executive and I hope that  there will be something positive to report soon

Campaign for the return of local newspaper archive

The refurbished Atkinson Library is now open to general acclaim-although some have commented on the number of books missing which may be a temporary situation. But one area that does concern me is that our local history section is missing. Apparently it is lodged elsewhere. Surely the right place for the archive of local Southport newspapers  is in Southport Library

According to wikipedia the ...'Old Southport newspapers now out of print are as follows: Independent 1861-1920s; Liverpool & Southport News 1861–1872; Southport News (West Lancs) 1881–1885; Southport Standard 1885–1899 Southport Guardian 1882–1953; Southport Journal 1904–1932  Southport Star; Southport Advertiser

Now you shouldn't believe everything we you read on Wikipedia- I think the Southport Guardian went on until 1959 and the copy of the Journal I am reading is dated 1953 despte wiki claiming it ceased publication in 1939. Nevertheless whenever the exact dates folk who might wish to read it chiefly live in Southport and the copies should be deposited in The Atkinson Reference Library

The copies I was reading contained reports on the Coronation, the Southport Parliamentary by election and Ronnie Fearn's 21 Birthday!

I met with Sefton Chief Exec Margaret Carney and raised this issue with her. Before the refurbishment of the building the Library had a complete set of the Southport Guardian. It is a valuable resource and should be in Southport. So give us back our history

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

lest we forget -the unbridgeable gulf between us and the Thatcher approach

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

The Liberal Party Constitution commits us to' ... create the positive conditions which will make a full and free life possible for all' . The last two words establish an unbridgeable gulf between us and the Thatcher approach. 

David Steel 1985

A journalist reporting the death of Thatcher tonight said that he learned the news whilst following Clegg on a campaign tour of Cornwall and reflected that Thatcher had a profound impact on our party.Writing in 1985 David Steel set himself the task of '...........presenting a constructive alternative to Thatcherism and ....'winning the intellectual argument against the new Conservatism.' .  Before considering what went wrong between then and now it is worth restating how the Party responded to Thatcher at the time.

As a party we valued Community and knew that individual freedom was enhanced and realised by working with other people to do important and enjoyable things. Unlike Thatcher we most decidedly believed in society.

For Thatcher the solution to the problems of the corporate state was to champion the dogma of free markets and to strengthen those government agencies like the police to control the inevitable social disorder and dissent. Civil liberties were not central to Thatcher's politics only 'economic liberty' which was only enjoyed by a few.

We saw the great importance of environmental politics and we knew that we could not leave it to market mechanisms to meet that great challenge. We appreciated that the state needed to be part of the solution and most of all we welcomed the implication that green issues required international co-operation You could not have an environmental solution in one country only.

Our internationalism, our federalism, contrast sharply with Thatchers jingoism. We did not share the Tory view that Britain was the first political principle. Our Liberal forbears had properly identified 'the warping influence of nationalism' and we were not interested in unlearning the lesson. As a party we stood against the military embodiment of that nationalistic policy -the Trident missile programme . Liberals had always opposed the concept of nuclear deterrents.

From the times of Grimond onwards we championed the European cause and Human Rights. For Thatcher (and later for Blair)  the closeness to America was the priority bringing Cruse missiles to Britain. Thatcher oppossed Mandela and stood by Pinochet.

Thatcherism is today remembered as an economic creed,even if key bits of it have been ditched-the mystical belief in controlling the money supply and measuring M1 or M2 or M27. The dramatic shock that Thatcher delivered to the nations economy was wholly at odds with traditional Conservatism which disliked rapid change and believed in continuity and organic development. Thatcher gave us the Big Bang, deregulated free markets with minimal state intervention (well at least in theory because Thatcher's regulatory structure was far more interventionist that Gordon Brown's.)

This led to privatisation, the rapid decline of traditional manufacturing and the destruction of the communities that relied on them. The selling off of council houses and the installation of aspiration as the new political lode star.

It is of course perfectly possible to point to parts of this policy programme with approval. I never had much difficult with council house sales. I had seen enough of large neglected municipal housing estates to believe that there must be a better way. Like many in my generation I was influenced in this are by Colin Ward's book Tenants take Over  which championed tenants co-ops and the end of municipal control and patronage. I also saw the policy as one of the biggest redistributions of wealth by any government since Henry VIII. My criticism was that the policy failed to follow up with new social housing. The increase in home ownership did not offend me as it seemed to do for many on the left.

Equally the policy of wider share ownership did not present me with that greater problem. I wanted wealth to be diffused and not concentrated  in the hands of the state or private corporations. When Richard Wainwright and Sam Brittan suggested that individual citizens should be given shares in North Sea Oil as a way of distributing the windfall wealth that it produced I could see the point. .It is sad to reflect 30 years on that a large proportion of the council houses sold are now in the hands of large corporate landlord and the privatisation shares were quickly hoovered up by the useful suspects much, as the shares in the de-mutualised  Building Societies, were.Wealth is more unequally distributed today than it was when Thatcher came to power in 1979. That is not to say that pre 1979 we lived in Paradise, we did not.

There is some evidence that Thatcher understood some of the green issues and commissioned Chris Pattern to come up with policies to meet that challenge. They were timid and did not match our ambition for establishing new green businesses. The run down of loss making traditional industry was always going to happen but there were better ways which would have not led to the divided and fractured society she bequeathed us.

In the aftermath of Thatcher's second Victory in 1983 the Liberal Party was resolutely against Thatcher's free market revolution believing it to be as undesirable as the State collectivism of the then Labour Party. David Steel published a manifesto style collection of essays Partners in One Nation in which the contributors sought to outline a policy alternative to the socially divisive policies of Mrs T. It is not the greatest book of political policy ever written but it does clearly lay out where, after a term of Thatcher , the party leadership pitched its policy. Steel's vision for economic recovery was based on the economic thinking of a great Keynesian pupil and Nobel prize winner - Professor  James Meade

As his obituary in the Independent noted:

Meade was an egalitarian, both in his ideas and in his life. He felt that economics should concern itself not only with the size of the cake but with how unequally the cake was distributed. For the sake of greater equality one should be willing to accept some loss of efficiency. Thus economic policy analysis required a framework in which any proposal (on trade, taxation, employment or whatever) could be evaluated by first describing its actual results and then assessing their impact on aggregate human welfare. Meade provided such a framework.

Meade had advocated various forms of social credit and citizens income for a long times as an alternative to social security doles. By 1985 he has settled on the view that full employment, growth, and a fair distribution of income and wealth would best be achieved if the state created a structure in which:

................ firms should become partnerships between labour and capital where each worker would receive a specified share of the firm's revenue. To make sure that outsiders were not excluded they could join with a lower initial claims than insiders. This became Meade's final vision of the good society.

Steel, like Grimond, was impressed by the worker owned enterprises in Mondragon and believed that their cooperative principles would increase productivity-as indeed recent studies by the Cass Business School confirms. He also held that they would be willing to pursue policies that prioritised the creation of employment over 'building share holder value'. What is fascinating from this distance was the willingness of Meade and Steel to contemplate a significant role for the state in arbitrating of wages and  using its power to support full employment as a key objective. Both abhorred the Thatcher policy of controlling inflation via policies whose consequence was mass unemployment. 

Liberal recognised that the state corporatism that characterised the Wilson and Callaghan years had failed. But the Thatcher alternative was not anymore attractive. After ther 1983 election there was another collection of Liberal essays that spelt out the role of Liberalism after Thatcher.  The Liberty 2000 Report which the Assembly adopted was another attempt to respond to the new political situation-but more of that another time. Suffice to say that Thatcherism was not the only alternative to Labour's failed corporate state, the trade union barons and an economy based on declining industries. Co-operation, partnership, the common interests were central to that approach as were internationalism,  environmentalism and civil and economic liberty for all -and the last two word an unbridgeable gulf between us and the Thatcher approach

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Library campaigners launch volunteer recruitment drive

Campaigners from the three threatened Southport libraries_Ainsdale, Birkdale. and Churchtown launched a drive to get volunteers on their new website please visit the site and fill in the form from the drop down menu at the top of the page.

Supporters from the three libraries had a desk outside The Atkinson on Lord Street this morning.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Attacking Tory mis-rule -prejudice leads to resignation-update

About 100 years ago the Birkdale and County Liberal Club held their annual picnic. In 1913 they visited Childwall Abbey. Undoubtedly the most significant figure in the photo is Charles Brumm -Birkdale's own 'CB'. He is fourth from the left. Brumm was German by birth and had become a naturalised UK citizen in the 1870's . He was President of Birkdale Liberals and held in very high regard as the last verse of this Election song shows:
A year later with WW1 looming the annual picnic took them the Rufford-Hesketh Arms. In the picture of that event Charles Brumm is missing. 

The picnic was held 3 days before the outbreak of war and Brumm had felt it necessary to resign as President because of the widespread anti German feeling.
As we approach the centenary of WW1 it is worth recalling the jingoistic national mood. Such sentiments have always been a feature of our politics; Bentinck, Imperial Leagues, and Empire Unions,  they re-occur. Sometimes they capture the Tory party often they stand out side it. UKIP today stands in their tradition. When you view the propaganda of the time you can understand Brumm's discomfort. He was a veteran of the first 1910 election in Southport when the Baron de Forest -of Jewish dissent-was the Liberal candidate and the Tories played the race card and ran 'the White  candidate' against him-narrowly winning. I noticed the other
 night in the Crown pub they have a photograph of the Tory Club in Birkdale displaying the election result in 1910. Notice the slogan 'England for the English'

The original photos passed to me by the blog's resident historian came from the home of Mr H G Williamson a long standing Birkdale Liberal. He is pictured on the extreme right of the 1914 photo. I have been fortunate to receive various documents from this source including his copy of the 1929 We Can Conquer Unemployment pamphlet on which he had noted down the result  in Southport. Cecil Ramage the barrister and actor was our candidate-(He played the barrister in Kind Hearts and Coronets)
Next to Williamson in the photo is Dr Mullholland a local candidate. He had a key role in the first 1910 election namely to deliver the Catholic vote. He had some success in this but most did as the local Catholic Squirearchy told them. The catholic population in the town were not Irish Catholics as in Liverpool who did vote Liberal chiefly because of Gladstone, they were Lancashire and tended to follow the local landowners in voting Tory.

Charles Brumm's  grandfather had fought at Waterloo as a Hanoverian for the British .He had been naturalised  forty years early and yet the Tories still considered him to be a  foreigner in the same way as de Forest. He published a book which was sent out to Liberal friends and a copy survives from Mr Williamson’s garage-from whence have come many key historical documents  I will do a posting on the book later