Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Tory proposes ditching Magna Carta rights

This was a motion submitted by the Tory Leader to our last Council Meeting. Please note 3.1. It cheerfully tips up Magna Carta (SECTION XXIX to be precise) suggesting that folk merely accused of an ill defined offence should suffer punishment without the benefit of a fair trail. 

Notice of Motion submitted by Councillor Jones
To consider the following Motion submitted by Councillor Jones:

“That the Council:

1.         recognises the devastating effect the disgraceful and cowardly act of trolling can have on individuals or their close relatives;

2.         notes the concerns of the public expressed in recent research conducted by Kantar where 85% of those surveyed believed there needs to be new legislation to deal with the issue of trolling and stronger rules be introduced to govern it; and

3          requests the Government to amend legislation to ensure that:

(i)         some one who has been charged or proved to have taken part in trolling not be allowed to stand for election as a councillor; and

(ii)        an elected member, be removed from their position if proved to  have taken part in trolling.”

My amendment:

The outcome of the amendment would be that the motion reads: 

"That the Council:

1. recognises the devastating effect the disgraceful and cowardly act of malicious trolling/cyberbullying, as defined by the Malicious Communications Act 1988 can have on individuals or their close relatives;

2. notes the concerns of the public expressed in recent research conducted by Kantar where 85% of those surveyed believed there needs to be new legislation to deal with the issue of malicious trolling/cyberbullying and stronger rules be introduced to govern it".

Oh the Magna Carta xxix

NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor [X1condemn him,] but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

150 new homes off New Cut Lane behind Guildford RD

The site today-note the two buzzards top right
On prime agricultural land encroaching in the green belt West Lancs Council have agreed to build new houses. One of the sites is off New Cut Lane well away from any centre of population in West Lancs. The new residents will use Southport schools and roads which are already at capacity. The new homes bonus will go to West Lancs and the rates income will go there too We have supported the New Cut Lane/Guildford Rd residents in opposing the plan but sadly it has now been passed

The residents website is at:

Unacceptable saga in Richmond Rd -you couldn't make it up

Way back in May I was contacted about an electrical cabinet being knocked over and obstructing the pavement. And so began a long saga began-still unfinished- in trying to get someone to a) make it safe and b) remove it. Finally Scottish Power visited site as promised on 19.11.13. They removed various electrical equipment including a meter and confirmed that there is no live supply there. They insist that the cabinet is not theirs and have left the site in a worse state than before. I complained again but was told that they could not do anymore until they had traced the account that the meter was for.

This account they now say was held by United Utilities who have been  contacted but they insist it is not theirs having checked the maps and drawings of their infrastucture.

I am most gratful to the residents of Richmond Rd , in particular Mr Tittle, who have been very persistent. The nonsense that they and I have been subjected to is wholly unacceptable.  

To go back to the begining:

The cabinet in question was reported during May as being knocked over for the second time. The Council  instructed Capita to investigate and they did, which ultimately led to a dispute between Scottish Power and Virgin Media about  ownership.

The Council having confirmed that the responsibility for repair fell with somebody else and having advised both parties that repairs were required, the matter was closed on the Council’s  defect reporting system. I think the assumption was made that the repair would be completed. Unfortunately, due to communications issues between the council and their contractors they  cannot ascertain why this was assumed.

During late September both parties contacted the COUNCIL denying ownership. Eventually the Council have obtained a key that fits, opened the box and confirmed that it is actually owned by Scottish Power. An e-mail was sent to them on October 23rd, advising them accordingly and demanding that repairs are carried out.

So who owns it? I intend to find out!

Southport businesses failed by Banks

Major national newspapers and the main television news led on the story of a Southport business brought to its knees by the antics of RBS Bank

Vince Cable forced the issue of the failure of banks to do their job properly by commissioning a report  about their behavior towards small businesses . He has now referred the issue to the regulators

i have long argued that RBS is too big and dominates the market-especially for small business loans. The bank should be broken up and new regional banks established. Since the war pretty well all our local banks and mutual financial institutions have been wiped out. A thriving economies needs local banks where decision are made by people who know the local circumstances not by computers programmed hundreds of miles away. 

One of the most worrying aspects was that the banks were more interested in 'building share holder value' than helping businesses to thrive. The short-termism of our financial sector was one of the key causes of the crash in 2008. 

In rebuilding the financial sector we need to have more mutually owned institutions whose first loyalty is to their members. It is revealing that since the crash it has been the small mutuals who have been among the best lenders to Small and Medium size enterprises. It other successful market economies there are thriving local banks funding new enterprises. We need them in the UK. Breaking up RBS re-establishing banks like Williams and Glynn and Martins would be a first stage

Christmas is coming and no doubt many of us will watch 'It's a wonderful life' with James Stewart. His mutual bank: 'Bailey Saving and Loan' may have been fictitious but we could certainly do with local banks serving local needs again

Eddie Warren and his wife Cheryl lost more than £1million, their livelihood and their marriage after borrowing from RBS.
The couple bought the Bold Hotel in Southport in 2007 for £3.7million, using £1.2million of their own money and  taking out a loan from the bank.
A condition of the loan was that they had to take out an interest rate swap to protect them when base rates increased, but this led to them paying high fixed interest on their loans and an additional £120,000 a year in penalties as rates tumbled. After the hotel was placed in RBS’s Global Restructuring Group it was valued at just £1.8million. By the autumn of 2011, the business was pushed into administration.
RBS property company West Register bought the hotel for £1.4million several months later. 
The bank claims the business may only just break even when it is sold but Mr Warren says it could soon be worth £4million as the property market recovers. 
He said: ‘They stole it. Even if the property market was depressed it would be worth £3million.’

Read more:

Monday, 25 November 2013

No Public Health without Mental health in Sefton

I have always believed that government needs challenge and discussion rather than deference or conformism.  Sadly the ruling Bootle Labour Party in Sefton seem to disagree. The know it all. Cabinet meetings last a few minutes, the Health and Well Being Board is stuffed with Labour councillors-no opposition allowed. We have to use Freedom of Information requests to acquire information that should be in the public domain. Undue secrecy pervades their actions. As a result they 'mess up'. What follows is a tale of one such event:

It has been a good year for the Public Health aspect of Mental Health. The Time for Change Campaign has really begun to bite and the celebrity endorsement pf  people like Stephen Fry has begun to move public opinion. I have been impressed with Ruby Wax,  'C4 goes Mad ' series and and the recent Bedlam which are reviewed here. At a government level Norman Lamb has won much approval from the medical health sector.  The White Paper -No Health without Mental Health- and the recent NHS mandate with its clear expression that mental Health should have 'parity of esteem' with physical Health has led to real changes for the better-eg mental health services used to be excluded from crisis service response targets and  when the patients right to choose where they received their treatment was introduced by the last government it did not include mental Health services .

 Sefton Council's agenda for the November meeting  arrived recently  complete with the Public Health report as an item  proclaiming:
Most importantly, Sefton Council now has the overall responsibility for protecting and improving the health of our local population"

It goes on to list 'at a glance ' the the items to 'keep focus' on:

Sefton’s Stop Smoking Service:
Breastfeeding: Sefton
Physical activity
Health Checks
Immunisation Uptake

What happened to 'parity of esteem' for mental health? I looked further in the report and there it was on page 8 with 'other' issues. In fact I think there were more photos of Labour Councillors than there were mentions of mental health. 

I decided that something ought to be done and I realised that arising from the debate I could move a resolution.The Centre for Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, Mind, NHS Confederation Mental Health Network, Rethink Mental Illness, Royal College of Psychiatrists and YoungMinds have come together to create a local authority mental health challenge and to put mental health firmly on to the Public Health agenda in Sefton I thought I'd try to get them to sign up to the challenge. I adopted the standard motion which read:

  • 1 in 6 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
  • The World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the second most common health condition worldwide by 2020
  • Mental ill health costs some £105 billion each year in England alone.
  • People with a severe mental illness die up to 20 years younger than their peers in the UK.
  • There is often a circular relationship between mental health and issues such as housing, employment, family problems or debt.
This council believes:
  • As a local authority we have a crucial role to play in improving the mental health of everyone in our community and tackling some of the widest and most entrenched inequalities in health.
  • Mental health should be a priority across all the local authority’s functions, from public health, adult social care and children’s services to housing, planning and public realm.
  • All councillors, whether members of the Executive or Scrutiny and in our community and casework roles, can play a positive role in championing mental health on an individual and strategic basis.
This council resolves:
To sign the Local Authorities’ Mental Health Challenge run by Centre for Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Royal College of Psychiatrists and YoungMinds.
We commit to:

  1. Appoint an elected member as ‘mental health champion’ across the council
  2. Identify a ‘lead officer’ for mental health to link in with colleagues across the council
  3. Follow the implementation framework for the mental health strategy where it is relevant to the council’s work and local needs
  4. Work to reduce inequalities in mental health in our community
  5. Work with the NHS to integrate health and social care support
  6. Promote wellbeing and initiate and support action on public mental health
  7. Tackle discrimination on the grounds of mental health in our community
  8. Encourage positive mental health in our schools, colleges and workplaces
  9. Proactively engage and listen to people of all ages and backgrounds about what they need for better mental health
  10. Sign up to the Time to Change pledge.
There were , of course, no apologies for the omission but they did agree to my motion- but not until we were treated to some very revealing responses. I was to rest assured that there was some excellent work going on -but obviously not important enough to go into the report (as one Labour Councillor later explained to me the sub text of that speech may have been  that if  the speaker had been the cabinet member the omission would not have happened.  Then the cabinet member -he of the many photos-did not address the point but rather lamented the fact that the council were asked to sign so many charters. Maybe if instead of spending so much time posing for the camera he had engaged his critical facilities he would have challenged the report himself prior to publication.. And that really is the heart of the matter.I used the charter to highlight the ommision. The report went to the health and well being board-stuffed full of Labour members-no opposition members allowed and that means no Southport councillors and none of them challenged the report ( I would add the the health needs of Southport and the health services in Southport are very difference from Bootle. In addition we have a separate CCG and a hospital Trust that covers W. Lancs)   

We radicals have always believed  in government by challenge and discussion rather than deference or conformism. Hiding away from challenge- holding 3 minute long cabinet meetings and excluding the opposition leads to poor decision making

For Councillors I would recommend these briefing notes (not a lot of use in Sefton because as the Leader of the Council keeps reminding us -he 'takes lectures from nobody'. And look at the outcome

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Birkdale charity fundraiser event

We shopped locally for the Beer and Bangers (Robert Tear for the sausages and Southport Brewery for the beer ) when we held a fundraising event for Southport Kidney Fund

Birkdale Liberals/Lib Dems have a long association with the fund through our long time President Joan Coleman and activist Bernie Blaney and so it was that when Joan died earlier this year we decided to hold a fundraising event for the fund.

We delight to present Sue Blaney with a cheque at the end of the evening, Many thanks to all who attended and contributed

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Question time comes to Gladstone's library-and they've invited Lembit

Well to be clear this is the Library's own version of Question Time for students so there may not be the constant interruptions by the chair and women members of the panel may be able to complete an answer.
As the Parliament week hand out records they have gone and invited Lembit

Gladstone's Library is one of a kind – a residential library and meeting place dedicated to dialogue, debate and learning for open-minded individuals and groups looking to explore pressing questions as well as pursue study and research in an age of distraction and easy solutions. 
Situated in the Flintshire village of Hawarden, six miles from Chester, it is Britain’s only Prime Ministerial library and the national memorial to William Gladstone. 
On Thursday 21 November 2013 (1.30pm), the Library will host a Question Time event for high school students.
The panel will include:  
  • Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru and National Assembly Member for South Wales
  • Jac Armstrong, Lecturer in Law at University of Chester and former independent local Councillor
  • Lembit Opik, former Liberal Democrat MP and businessman
  • Askar Sheibani, CEO of IT and telecoms repair company, Comtek, and Entrepreneurship Champion for Wales

Gladstone’s Library in Wales

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Poirot is dead- time for Canon Chambers

I am delighted that there is to be a television adaptation of James Runcie's excellent Granchester Mysteries. There is a deceptive innocence and simplicity about these books, but be warned; rather like John Taverner's music they have more depth and  complexity than you might first imagine

Sir John Tavener, a County Council commission

In 2008 Richard Hickox died he was a champion of English Choral music. I wrote the following posting then which recorded my involvement with commissioning a choral work from John Tavener for the Chester Festival. Yesterday Sir John died. I heard him on Monday on Radio 4 with Andrew Marr discussing the poetry of George Herbert. After a prolonged period of illness he had started composing again and new works including settings of some Shakespeare sonnets and poems by Herbert are scheduled for performance. Last night Patricia Rosario was on Newsnight recalling Sir John. She was also involved in the performance at Chester Cathedral 21 years ago. Here is he posting from November 2008;

There was a period in the early 90's when I was spokesman on Arts on Cheshire County Council. This period coincided with the 900th anniversary of the Cathedral. We received various requests to help fund the celebrations. I must admit I was less than enthusiastic when the Dean suggested that the county council should buy new chairs for the cathedral. I soon got to the point when I was prepared to walk away from the whole project. It was that at that point the 'arts officer' sidled up to me for a confidential word. What he had in mind was that the County Council should commission a work for the Chester festival which would receive it's first performance at the cathedral. He explained that he knew John Taverner was composing a work for which he was looking for a commission. This was early in Taverner's 'Orthodox' phase and soon after he had released his 'Protecting Veil ' the sales of which outstripped all other classical music for some time.

I was very interested and the proposal was worked up. The politics were quite complex. The left of the Labour Party wanted nothing to do with a religious work and the Tories wanted to hear the work before they decided if they were to pay for it! (The Tories were an odd mix of new 'Thatcherite' estate agent types and some formidable censorious women) I had a little trouble with one of my colleagues Bill Leathwood, a staunch Methodist, who wanted to know whether this would be something that the choirs of Cheshire could sing. Eventually a coalition was put together and the worked performed in 1992 at the cathedral and then a week later at the Proms.

I went to the small 'after show' party at the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester and met John Taverner and Richard Hickox who conducted the work. I took my brother along who spent most of the evening talking to the soprano Patrica Rosario. The CD is still available. I know that for both of us (and everyone else who I spoke to who attended the performance that evening) we were profoundly moved and above all other performances I have been to it is the one that stands out in my memory.

Tavener composed a Requiem that had its premier at the Cathedral of Christ the King Liverpool, I did have a ticket but was unable to go because a council meeting. The requiem marked a development in Tavener's music and thinking. He moved towards a universal understand of religions and away from the explicitly christian emphasis. In time he came to regret the pictures of him surrounded by icons like the one on the front of the CD of the Cheshire County Council commission.

His music touch a generation. I witnessed both at the premier of 'We shall see Him as he is' and when Steven Isserlis played the' Protecting Veil' at Chester that he could move an audience to silence