Monday, 29 February 2016

fed up with the obsession with Tory issues in the EU referendum? There is a better case which must be heard

To judge from most coverage of the EU referendum you would be excused for thinking that the key issues are the fear of immigration, the wholly erroneous assertion that folk come here to claim benefit and how we can make some rich businessmen richer by opting out of rights won for workers actoss the EU

There is a positive case and it was good to hear Willie Rennie Lib Dem Leader in Scotland putting that view:

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "The United Kingdom's future should be at the heart of the European Union. Next to the NHS it is one of the best creations that this country has built. It has helped build peace, security and economic progress since the Second World War.
"With open markets, partnership between universities and free movement of people it is in our interest to remain a key part of the European Union.
"Our ancestors who experienced a continent of conflict for centuries will be looking on with incredulity that we are even considering leaving the organisation that has helped create a continent of peace

I also like the comments made by the SNP leader

Ms Sturgeon said: "The EU is a coming together of independent states that choose to pool some of their sovereignty to better tackle those issues that don't respect national boundaries - like climate change, energy security and the refugee crisis.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Europe was never just an economic project

I guess Farage and his motley crew are working on the basis that if they keep repeating nonsense people will come to accept it is true. .One particular oft repeated bit of nonsense is that in 1975 we were asked to join a free trade area and not a wider political project.

I was about in those days and I have checked my recollections (it is never wise to rely on one's memory) Reader may not know that we left a free trade area EFTA to join the wider political project of Europe. This was not done underhand it was explicit in the negotiations and in the prospectus that was set out.

Here is part of the governments statement:

  But all of us are aware of the long-term potential for Europe, and therefore for Britain, of the creation of a single market of approaching 300 million people, with all the scope and incentive which this will provide for British industry, and of the enormous possibilities which an integrated strategy for technology, on a truly continental scale, can create. I am glad to say that my right honourable friend and I found that this concept has made a great impact throughout Europe.
"But whatever the economic arguments, the House will realise that, as I have repeatedly made clear, the Government's purpose derives above all from our recognition that Europe is now faced with the opportunity of a great move forward in political unity and that we can—and indeed must—play our full part in it.
"We do not see European unity as something narrow or inward-looking. Britain has her own vital links through the Commonwealth, and in other ways, with other continents. So have other European countries. Together we can ensure that Europe plays in world affairs the part which the Europe of to-day is not at present playing. For a Europe that fails to put forward its full economic strength will never have the political influence which I believe it could and should exert within the United Nations, within the Western Alliance and as a means for effecting a lasting d├ętente between East and West; and equally contributing in ever fuller measure to the solution of the world's North-South problem to the needs of the developing world. 

You can read it in full here

I particularly like Frank Byers contribution to that debate:

As the House knows, we have been advocating this for over ten years. We certainly wish them every success. Indeed, if our application succeeds, this could be the beginning of a new era, not only for this country but for Europe as a whole. We might all go forward much stronger as a political entity in the future, and also stronger economically

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Time to Talk day,a mental health initiative making a difference

To the mental health campaign Time to change has its Time to talk day

Time to Talk Day

Time to Talk Day - Thursday 4th February 2016

Join us and let’s get the nation talking about mental health to help end the misconceptions around it. 
Mental health problems affect 1 in 4 people every year, yet too often people are afraid to talk about 
their experiences because they fear it will affect their jobs or relationships. That’s not right and it’s 
why we need your help to break the silence and end the stigma.

A release from a local mental health charity sets the scene
We’ve got lots of things going on to celebrate the day and raise awareness of 
mental health; from here in Liverpool – where our Head Office is based –   
to London and throughout the UK.
Our staff in London are at ASDA with Sutton Uplift, giving people the opportunity 
to stop by and talk to them about mental health issues;
 our Health and Wellbeing Practitioner, Laura Henry, is representing Imagine 
at a Time to Talk event in Central Station here in Liverpool and the
 Redbridge office are hosting their own event… to name but a few!


To join the conversation on Twitter, keep an eye on our own coverage of the 
day’s events and help to raise awareness of mental health, check out
@ImagineIndep01 and use the hashtag #timetotalk.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The British Lawnmower Museum and the town that dare not speak its name

The famous Lawnmower Museum which gets post addressed to Stockport

A rare thing happened last week, the town spoke with one voice. The packed town hall meeting agreed that in developing the town there were a number of key challenges:
  • Rail links to the North and East
  • Maintaining the line to Manchester Piccadilly and Airport
  • Improving roads to the North and East
  • Promoting the town's name and a commensurate dropping of the failed and hated  'Seftonisation' approach
  • make the most of the legacy : Lord St., The Pier, Botanic Gardens etc
  • the town is a place people want to live and commute from 
  • as with past generations we need to 'chase the sea' as it disappears on the western horizon and to that end there was universal enthusiasm for the idea of a energy producing tidal lagoon which would reach out to where the beach now is
  • the promised tram to link Central 12, Chapel Street station, Lord St., Neville Street, Ocean Plaza and the Prom

Over a hundred folk packed into the council chamber at the town hall to discuss the strategy for the town produced by a firm of consultants. (I have always liked David Penhaligon's definition of an expert-someone who comes from 50 miles away.) The standard of the discussion was extremely high. Many people had thought deeply about the future of the town and the steps that need to be taken. We had hoteliers, architects, retailers, transport campaigners, the guerrilla gardeners who have done so much to beautify Lord Street/Botanic Gardens/Rotten Row etc, cyclist, motor cyclists, bird watchers, retired Sandgrouder who had come back home and Ollie from the Champion newspaper and many others besides.

Very quickly a consensus emerged that the key impediment to our economic development was the poor transport links to the town especially coming from the north and the east-bearing in mind that we have the Irish Sea on west side of the town- that represents 95% of the land boundary with which we have problems.

First let us look at rail link. We have been repeated failed by the sub region's transport planning. It is centred on the city. Large towns like us that seek to attract visitors from Manchester, Preston, Wigan and all point other than through the narrow corridor to the south have been ignored. Dr Jim Ford  gave voice to the concern that we have been sold out again by Merseytravel. A review of the routes that form part of the northern franchise has seen proposed improvement in all of them, except one. The line into our town from Manchester Airport, Bolton and Piccadilly looks destined to be cut. Once again the demand of the city have led them to ignore our plight. Let us be clear the existing rolling stock and track are a disgrace, You could not seriously suggest that anyone approached the town by train from that direction, it would most certainly put them off.

Through the narrow corridor to the south there is a regular train service. It is excellent for commuters but for day trippers, conference goers, weekenders, and those struggling with luggage it is not so good.  This is not least of all because the 40 minute journey is punctuated by stops every couple of minutes and the trains are not built for taking passenger luggage.

In what ever direction you travel by rail the connection to a mainline, north, south or east is, shall we say, awkward.

The same is true by road. If we were to target visitors within an hour's drive of the town that would not represent many people to the north and east. This is despite the presence of large urban conurbations near to us. The roads are not fit for purpose. If you come from the M58 the chances are that you will be held up in the bottle neck that is Ormskirk.  Travelling from the north is not a lot better.

It is therefore our number one priority to sort out the transport links. It doesn't matter how good our 'offer' is if it is nightmare to get here. Mind you once you arrive the communication within the town is equally poor. We were promised that the Pier tram would be extended up through Ocean Plaza, Chapel Street and Central 12

There was sustained applause for all those who wanted to have the town's name better promoted. There were numerous examples of people not having heard of us, even our prestigious attraction the National Lawn Mower Museum gets post addressed to Stockport.

 My colleague, Tony Dawson, recently emailed me a link to a Demos Report 'Talk of the Town'. The report looks at the fate of towns on the periphery of Cities. Surprise, surprise they do appreciably less well in socio economic development that the Cities. Although the impact was observed in the North and the South it was appreciably more pronounced in the north -particularly on Merseyside. Whilst reading report I noticed a reference to work undertaken by ONS which identified that the people had a preference to live in towns with a clear sense of identity -which makes the repeated attempts by bureaucrats to absorb our identity into a city 20 odd  miles away. This confirms the point made by Mr Woodward from the public gallery that ours is a town people choose to live in and commute from-and not just to Liverpool but (despite the atrocious road and rail links) Manchester, Preston and Wigan. In this context there was much discussion about neglect of the town, the impact of out of town shopping, and the excellent work volunteers carry out to maintain the things that enhance 'liveability'  and wellbeing in the town-the Lord Street guerrilla gardeners, the Rotton Row Project, Botanic gardens etc .

There was universal agreement over the creation of an energy producing tidal lagoon. This would give us back our beach provide an even bigger venue for the 24 yacht race as well as the environmental aspect of clean, sustainable energy production . Indeed the promotion of 'green tourism' was a theme. There is general disappointment that 30 years on from saving the marshes the Marshside RSPB reserve has very few facilities- two hides and a porta-loo

I will return to this issue. In the meantime let us be proud to promote the town's name. We are Southport not North Sefton and we lie on the estuary of the River Ribble.