Saturday, 21 March 2015

Good advice from David Steel -belatedly getting in touch with the grass roots

BBC news are reporting former leader (who is seldom consulted by Clegg) as handing out some rather good advice. He asserts that the party should be listened to after the election and that there is no appetite for another coalition and that ' the party needs to recharge its values'

I agree with him both about the mood of the party and the need to recharge our values.. In an earlier interview on Radio 4 Steel hand branded this coalition as 'unnatural'

Alan Beith reviewed the latest book on Steel in the Autumn 2014 edition of the Liberal History Journal  and wrote about Steel's 'detachment from the grassroots workers of the party he led'. Beith goes on 'It was someone who was much more ready than the current generation of Liberal Democrat leadership to define himself as 'centre left' established so little rapport with those in the Party who defined themselves in the same way.'

You can say that again, but frankly better late than never and maybe this new empathy comes from experiencing being shut out and the fact that he shares the values and judgements of the party's activists. He will be a powerful voice in rebutting the attempts to rubbish supply and confidence arrangements.

Another Scots, Nigel Lindsay in the excellent book Unlocking Liberalism reminds us that we should be on the side of the governed not the government. In that he is echoing Jo Grimond in an essay the Young Liberal published during Steel's leadership.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The aftermath of Sefton's budget

Over the past few days there have been some interesting responses for the debate about Sefton's Budget. In Southport it is generally held to have been a disaster.

One particularly perverse piece of spin has been put about, namely that because we managed to shame Labour into accepting a minor amendment to improve the cold weather provision for rough sleepers we should have supported the entire budget. Pause for a moment of thought. Consider if the Government had proposed legislation to, say, have an immigration policy the practical impact of which was to say if you were white you come to Britain and if you Black you would be barred. ( Any resemblance to the Labour Party's Commonwealth Immigration Act is not accidental) If that legislation went on to allow the Government to disregard International Law and invade sovereign states killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people and leading to the destabilising of a fragile region and further if that Bill allowed the government to intercept and reading the correspondence of free citizens I would vote against it even if it introduced the separation of Sefton into two boroughs.

Now I fully appreciate that the Leader of the council does not for one minute believe the nonsense that an opposition party should vote for his budget just because they agree with section 9, sub section 14, point (iii). It is put about to encourage the more gullible and ill informed of his followers. I was much taken with a posting on a Labour website that identified one of the real problems facing the Opposition namely that the :  '......insular righteousness is nearer the behaviour of a cult than a party of government. It is not enough to believe we are right because we are Labour'.

Other contributions have been more thoughtful. Back a bit we were faced with other cuts to the Botanic. I tried very hard in cabinet and outside to establish a workers' cooperative to take over those functions. Sadly there was no support from other parties (the Council was in no overall control) and the staff took redundancy. I still think that was the employee owned business was the preferable option.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Sefton's Budget 'kick in the teeth' for Southport

Last night's Sefton budget was real kick in the teeth for Southport. Despite demonstrating how the money could be found to maintain the visitor infrastructure in Southport the Bootle dominated Labour cabinet blocked our reasonable amendments.  Relatively small sums were needed to safeguard the Botanic Gardens and to maintain the excellent partnership between the volunteers and the essential professional gardeners. But Labour would have none of it they would rather line the own pockets and maintain their mega allowances. We identified that the proposed 'cull of senior officers' (which has been a long time coming) had yielded enough to plug this gap and wasn't be spent on anything else. It was a disgrace and confirm that the Labour Party neither understand or care about the plight of the Southport economy.

I would like to put on record my thanks to our budget team for all their preparation. The persuasive skill of Cllr Daniel Lewis need to deployed more fully.
He holds the record for having got a budget amendment through. Congratulations. Dan's amendment was to take forward a previous Lib Dem initiative for rough sleepers. Reader may recall that residents alerted us to the fact that the emergency cold weather provision for rough sleepers was only available in Liverpool. This is not a fat lot of use to those needing the service in our town especially as there was no assistance in getting to the provision which is situated in a church hall outside the City Centre. Our initiative led to the establishment of a provision in Southport run by a local charity. We have now found extra funding to expand the operation of that service.

I think we can claim two victories because we flushed out a second concession over the pot of money created by the underspend. There was a significant underspend in last years budget and we wanted to be clear that that money would be available as a capital grants for those struggling to set up Community Libraries. This is another example when instead of working in partnership  with volunteer local groups the Labour Party would rather shut down the service.

There was a mighty contrast between our team effort and the Labour party who gagged all their councillors only allowing the Leader to speak. Welcome though those victories were the truth is that on the main item -preserving the infrastructure of our town’s visitor economy-we were blocked by an intransient Labour party who could not care less about the economic success of our town. So petty and vindictive was their approach that even where we clearly identified funding to bridge the gap for the Botanic and The Atkinson they refused to budge.

We really have to consider whether Sefton is an acceptable vehicle for local government in our town. Back when the Boundary Commission last looked at the plight of Southport they issued what in effect was a ‘yellow card’ warning to Sefton. Since then, especially under Bootle domination, things have become intolerable. I think 'video evidence' will confirm that last night Sefton deserves another Yellow Card . We need to go back to the Boundary commission. Sefton is not fit for purpose.

On a brighter note did any of you, apart from our resident train buff, notice an announcement that was slipped out last night about the electrification of the Southport line to Manchester? Tony R is in search more details. This is real triumph. At last, it appears, that the economic case for upgrading that wretched line has been accepted. As soon as we get more details I shall circulate them.

Minimum wage boost welcomed


The independent body which advises the Government on the National Minimum Wage is to recommend that it be increased by 3%. The above-inflation rise would take the adult rate from £6.50 to 6.70 an hour, the biggest rise since 2008. Business Secretary Vince Cable said the Low Pay Commission's recommendations had always been accepted by politicians. If approved, the increase would apply from October. The Low Pay Commission's recommendations to the Government for the 2015 rates are as follows: · Adult rate - £6.70 · 18-20 rate - £5.30 · 16-17 rate - £3.87 · Apprenticeship rate - £2.80

Local Lib Dems have been campaigning for an increase in  the National Minimum Wage. We have emphasised that the Government must take into account the concerns of the local tourism sector and small businesses. Making it easier for people to get by has been a massive issue over the last few years. We are delighted that, if agreed, this boost would represent an annual pay rise of £416 for a full time worker on the minimum wage.

In a town like Southport where many of the jobs in retails, hospitality and care are low paid this is of real significance.