Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Fury at Council severe weather policy that shuts the doors at 9.00pm and refuses access...

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice Update: 15.53 on 12th December:

Hi Iain,

I contacted Bosco house Bootle for an update on their policy. They can take an extra 8 or 9 people in the extreme weather and they have been told to turn no one away but they are still applying the policy that the homeless have to turn up between 8 and 9.

I then phone Leyland Road Southport and they have taken the furniture out the room so they can accommodate an extra 6 or 7 people. After that they are referring them to Bosco House. Again they are still applying the policy that the homeless have to turn up between 8 and 9 or otherwise they will be turned away.

Just be clear for the third night running where severe weather pushed the temperature well below zero Sefton's policy  is shut the doors of its shelter and refusing access after 9.00pm to vulnerable adults who are rough sleeping

I was first elected in 1984. I don't think I have found myself as angry about anything at any time since then as I did yesterday.

I was chipping the ice of my car window screen yesterday morning. We had sub zero temperatures over night again. I was grateful when the phone rang and I could get back into the warm.

The lady on the phone had a tale to tell. She had gone to pick up her daughter from a night club in the early hours of the morning. Her daughter was most distressed when they met because she come across someone sleeping in a shop doorway. It was my now -2C and felt more like -6C. Mother and daughter had gone home a found some warm things and returned with them.
Surely ,she said, on a night as cold as this there was somewhere to go.

This is an issue I took up back in 2013. Regular readers will recall at that time Sefton Council's idea of fulfilling its obligation to provide for rough sleeps in severe cold weather was to tell them to get on a bus and go 20+miles to Liverpool and then find there way to a hall in Liverpool 8 . After that a separate service was established in Southport in the YMCA building which I visited in the cold weather. A mixture of staff and volunteers were doing an excellent job. I had no reason to believe that that service, although it had been relocated, had been pulled.

As a result of the phone call I thought I ought to check. During the day I and others made a serious of phone calls and I have become increasingly angry about what I have found.

The first thing that we were told-and it was repeated, was that if you had not booked into the service by 8pm then you would be allowed in. (Now my hunch is that those actually doing the frontline work may ignore that. Nevertheless it was the information tat was being given out and we were told that was the normal practice. A quick check found that not to be the case, Whitechapel who run the service in Liverpool were quite categorical that they would not turn anyone away no matter what the hour.

we then checked out St Martin's in the Field and they said in sub-zero temperature they would not turn anyone away. They referred me to the attached guide which may be of help. I’ve also attached the link to the website. They also said across London worked on the same policy.

Secondly, the folk on the street know that during severe weather 2 additional places are added to the existing service in Southport. When I went into this in some detail in 2013 it was clear that there were about 20 people who, in common parlance, would be seen as rough sleepers. So there is a question of capacity.

Thirdly this group of people often have multiply needs and the main issue they may have could well be substance abuse. It does raise the concern that one small service for seven people may not be appropriate.

In truth Southport has a good story to tell. There are a range of services in the town some of which have listed below. But in the matter of provision in severe weather the council must think again. To that end I have written to the CEO of Sefton Council seeking clarification. In particular I want to see precisely what has been commissioned by the council for severe weather provision. It is clear to me that the people delivering the service are not those with questions to answer. The Council and its commissioning strategy that needs to be held to account.

Services for vulnerable people in Southport:


Monday – Lakeside Church, Promenade 1-4pm

Tuesday -Grace Baptist Church, Princes Street 1-3.30pm

Wednesday – Scarisbrick Rd Baptist Church 11am-2pm

Thursday - Ainsdale Methodist Church 11am-3.30pm

Friday 1) Holy Trinity, Formby 1-4pm

           2) Lakeside Church, Promenade 1-4pm

To access the Foodbank, a voucher needs to be redeemed and these can be arranged through Light for Life, Parenting 2000, The Life Rooms, Sefton Council, and other organisations.

There is an evening meal available at Café Vivesco on a Thursday evening at 7pm.

The Soup Kitchen is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11am to 2pm and Saturday and Sunday 11am-2pm.

There are also independently run services offering food at Shoreline Church (daily 5pm), The Marion Centre (St Maries Church) 10-12 noon and 2-4pm Monday to Friday.

The Rough Sleeper Service for Sefton is based at Light for Life on Eastbank Street with outreach workers who make contact daily with those Rough Sleeping and other vulnerable people including those with addiction issues and mental health difficulties. The staff can provide access to emergency accommodation (which is increased during periods of cold weather and open 8pm -8am every night). The service also provides a night café open 10pm to 6am on Sunday nights for drop in, access to accommodation advice and support. The main office provides a daily bakery service with bread, cakes and pastries.

There are several accommodation services commissioned to provide hostel/supported living in Southport which can be accessed through a Mainstay assessment available at the Housing Centre on Eastbank Street. There are over 70 bed spaces in accommodation such as this across Sefton.

Light for Life also provides Housing Options service on behalf of the Council for the Southport area.

Merseycare Ambitions (10 Church Street) are commissioned to provide the Substance Misuse service for Sefton.

Merseycare also run a range of services from the Life Rooms in Scarisbrick Street.

******OVER CHRISTMAS: The Christmas Shelter is open 22nd Dec for 5 days offering breakfast from 9.30am an three course cooked meal and a takeaway service in the afternoon at Alchemy, Mornington Road Southport (behind Parenting 2000). This service is run by a steering group including professionals from a range of services for vulnerable people.

This is a copy of an email from a colleague confirming the response they got when pursuing this query

Hi Iain,

Following your query yesterday I contacted xxxxxxxx from Sefton .She informed me that the homeless had to be in the que by 8.00pm at the latest or they turned away and not given shelter for the night.

I then contacted the White Chapel centre in Liverpool and they informed me that their policy in cold severe weather was that the homeless could present themselves at any time of night at the shelter and would never be turned away and would be provided with shelter. They informed me that their centre had been relocated to the centre of Liverpool to make it more accessible for the homeless and they would try and get them an assessment the next morning.

I then contacted both Southport and Bootle Sefton Supported Housing Group shelters directly to ensure I had stated in my original query that I was asking what their policy was in cold severe weather and both centres informed me that if the homeless turned up after 9.00pm they would be turned away. I reiterated that I was referring to cold severe sub-zero temperatures and both centres said they would be turned away. I asked would they refer the homeless somewhere else and they both said no.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Time to sign up and support Birkdale Community Hub and Library

It is time to sign up and support Birkdale Community Hub and Library. There are two easy ways you can contribute. Follow the link above and join the 200+Club and/or become a friend of the project for £12.

The library, which is a charity, opened its door during the Village Victorian Fayre and it was good to see so many local residents taking an interest.

The project, which is based at the Station Master's House next to the station, has ambitious plans. They need the support of Birkdale residents.Congratulation to all the volunteer team they have done marvellously well. Please sign up

Friday, 8 December 2017

Disinvestment in Southport Conference trade and visitor economy needs to be reversed

A pathetically inadequate document was presented to Southport Councillors this week entitled Southport Economy and Development Frame work.

A cursory glance at the report would lead you to believe that  all was going swimmingly in the best of possible worlds for the Southport economy. After all: 

• Visitor Numbers – 8.7 million a 1.4% increase; 
• Staying Visitors – 722k a 4.2% increase; 
• Economic Impact (visitor economy) £518 million a 4.1% increase; 
• Total Employment (visitor economy) 6,449 a 1.4% increase. Staying visitors are the most valuable to the destination in terms of economic value; therefore a 4.2% increase in 2016 represents a strong economic return

This look like good news until you factor in that this reporting period included the Open Golf which comes at best every 8 years. As the detail of the report shows the one-off impact is enormous. 'In July Royal Birkdale, Southport hosted The Open for the 10th time. Played over 8 days including practice days the event attracted over 235,000 people making it the biggest Open in England of all time. The expected economic benefits of The Open are forecast to be around £100 million, this includes the media value.' 

First off let us congratulate the Royal Birkdale Club they laid on a first rate event. I spoke at theier annual dinner prior to the Open. I was unstinting in my recognition of the crucial contribution that the Open coming to Birkdale has on the local economy. But it is a one off. Strip it out from the figures and the trends are not that rosie.

One area I want to concentrate on is the state of our conference trade. As the report says :
The Southport Theatre and Convention centre (STCC) is regarded as an excellent venue for medium to large scale conferences. In 2016 the venue hosted 19 conferences that generated 20,480 bed nights worth an estimated £9 million to the local economy.

Gulp, only 19 conferences in the entire year. Just over a thousand bed nights spread over,say 60 nights. What happened to the other 300 nights? This is the direct result of Sefton Council's disinvestment in Southport's visitor economy. On the Council Southport member have tried to stop the cuts to the towns tourism budget by moving costed amendments to the budget. Regrettably the Bootle cabal who run the council refuse to listen.   

Let us be clear, We have a good product. As Mayor I opened a goodly proportion of those conferences. I mingled with the delegates getting feedback about the town and the accommodation. I have recorded elsewhere how pleasantly surprised I was by the universal praise I heard from delegates about the hotels and guesthouses (big and small) the restaurants  and the places for afternoon tea. The conference hall and the floral hall provide a great venue so why is our conference trade not stronger?

I attended a conference in Bournemouth this year. Representatives of the venues for that conference in 2018 and 2019 attended to promote their towns and facilities. There was no presence from Southport despite the fact that event is coming to the town with a thousand plus delegates in March. 

The conference trad is central to the visitor economy. It provides work for our citizens in hotels and restaurants. But if we are operating so for below capacity then that work instead of be permanent become casual. The council has let us down. Instead of playing at being real estate investors they should concentrate on promoting our town so that sustainable jobs are created and maintained in the hospitality sector. They have taken their eye of the goal. 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Hillside Christmas lights this Friday

It is good to see that Hillside Independent Traders (HIT) have arranged an event this Friday to switch on their Christmas lights and to provide some related entertainment. Congratulations to them. We were pleased to be able to make a contribution to this event from our ward funds. The event runs from 4.00pm til 5.00pm

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Budget, the Liberal dog that hasn't barked

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice a double dose of recognition this week as this posting was also included in Liberal England Six of the Best and it also got the seal of approval from Roy Connell
For decades, in the post-war era, there was not a budget day when the Liberal Party did not move an amendment to promote employee ownership and industrial democracy. Jo Grimond and Richard Wainwright were always looking for opportunities to make the case for the redistribution of ownership. Not only did they believe that this would lead to a fair distribution of wealth and influence they saw that it would contribute to productivity improvement-but more of that later

Donald Wade, (who for younger readers, was the MP for Huddersfield West,) laid out the argument in his pamphlet Our Aim and Purpose which sold over 100,000 copies. It is important to recognise that the Liberal idea was not just to radically distribute ownership but also to shift where economic initiative was centred:

Managers and employees, acting in partnership, should employ capital, since all business requires capital. But the idea of capital employing labour is an out of date concept. It is an old fashion notion which Liberals reject.

These ideas were not new- they go back to J S Mill. He saw total employee ownership as the final stage in political-economic evolutionary process, and in Principles of Political Economy he argues that:The relation of masters and workpeople will be gradually superseded by partnership, in one of two forms: association of the labourers with the capitalist; in others, and perhaps finally in all, association of labourers among themselves’.

Vince Cable's article in the Guardian  lays out some excellent ideas and certainly addresses the case for 'progressive redistribution' with an important proposal for endowments for young people. He is good on tax avoidance wanting the government to go after tax cheats as aggressively as the Tories love to go after benefit 'cheats'. But no word on the signature policy of the Grimond revival.
It is worth rehearsing some of the arguments and looking at the 'ownership effect'. Many years ago I served, for about a decade, as a  member of the party's Standing Committee that became the Policy Committee. I recall one policy discussion based on a paper by James Meade. Meade received the Nobel Prize of economics. Let us pause for a moment and just unpick that a bit. One of the great disasters of the Clegg leadership was the way it was captured by economic commentators who had fallen under the spell of those false gods-the neoliberals. We are still living with the consequences despite Tim and Vince's efforts. This was particularly evident in the coalition negotiations in 2010. Writing in the Journal of Liberal History David Howarth observed:
.. Liberal Democrat leadership took no external advice about the issue, or about the separate issue of accelerated deficit reduction. Both the Treasury and the Bank of England would have reinforced the acceleration view, given half a chance, but that view is built into their nature. Others took very different positions on the optimal path, from the NIESR’s moderate caution to David Blanchflower’s jeremiads. The puzzle is not that the party took one view or another, but that it did so on the fly without consulting specialists. Has the party of Keynes lost touch with economics as a discipline?
James Meade was not just any economist. He struggled with the ideas that concern social liberals. He was a self-described liberal-socialist and sought ways to create a fair and prosperous society where free citizens lived rich and fulfilling lives. Decades before Piketty examined accelerating inequality he proposed policy solutions. He identified that as wealth was created it was going disproportionately to the shrinking number of owners of capital and employees were getting proportionately less. This was a situation which automation and the failure of inheritance taxation were exacerbating. Meade championed employee ownership. Writing on the Open Democracy website the academic Stuart White in his essay 'Citizen Ownership: The Lost radicalism of the Centre explores this challenge and Meade's other ideas.
If the return to capital is rising relative to labour, then the way to prevent this leading to growing inequality of income is to democratise claims over wealth – over returns to capital. This can be done in two ways.
First, the stateionatley  can enact policies to encourage a wider dispersion of privately-held wealth. This is what Meade means by ‘property-owning democracy’. Meade himself puts a lot of emphasis on designing an inheritance or accessions tax in a way that will break down large concentrations of wealth and encourage people to give wealth to those who have yet to receive much from this source. One can readily imagine other, complementary policies to help with this goal. In one interesting response to Paul Krugman’s article on the ‘rise of the robots’, Noah Smith argues along Meade-type lines, suggesting the idea of a universal capital endowment as a right of citizenship
Second, the state can itself build up a stake in national wealth and distribute this as income to citizens. For much of his career, Meade was an advocate of what he termed ‘Topsy Turvy Nationalization’. He was not supportive, in general, of the state buying up private sector firms and then trying to manage them. But he did strongly support the creation of a state investment fund. The state would own a portfolio of assets across the economy. The return on these assets could then be returned to the citizenry, e.g., as a uniform social dividend or basic income. One might call this a Citizens’ Trust.
A second issue that employee ownership answers is of particular interest to those of us who live outside of London. How do we create sustainable long-term employment in our communities? The Employee Ownership Association (EOA) -whose first chair was Jo Grimond - has some budget proposals on its website and this is an area they specifically address.
....two thirds or 4.7 million businesses, are family owned, as reported by the Institute for Family Business and the report earlier this year of the lack of business succession planning in the UK’s family owned businesses. Equally important to the future of SME’s are the ambitious plans of the Government-supported Scale Up Institute and the opportunity for employee ownership to play a critical part in engaging the entire workforce behind a growth or scale up plan.
Secondly, employee ownership is a growing feature across every regional economy. With the ability to help root businesses in a place for the long term, unlike trade sales which often result in a loss of a business or jobs, employee owned businesses contribute to more sustainable economies, with their higher levels of resilience and their longer-term orientation.
William Wallace in his Beveridge Lecture explains why the absence of regionally based sustainable business is so important. I would add to William's observation the point made by the EOA, that a lot of businesses are sold off when the founders retire and the default position of banks and accountants is to dispose of them without any thought about the long-term future of the company or the local economy. The record is that jobs are lost and in the short and medium term companies close.
Part of the problem we face is that globalization, in the form of foreign takeovers and cross-national mergers, has weakened domestic corporate leadership.  The directors of regional banks, the CEOs of companies based in Manchester, Leeds or Newcastle, are no longer there to create the ‘place-based industrial regeneration’ that government is now beginning to discuss.  
LEPs draw in the regional managers of multi-national companies, many of whom are committed to their roles for as long as they stay in their posts; but it’s striking that BEIS documents often refer to universities as triggers for regional regeneration rather than financial or corporate leaders.  And – I would argue, though some of you may not agree – that the looseness of the UK’s takeover rules, and the short-term culture of Britain’s financial institutions, continue to lead to too many of Britain’s new enterprises being swallowed by American or Asian takeovers as they grow: thus failing to generate the new regional leaders, the new players in the global market, that will revitalise the British economy.  
The contrast with Germany is striking: greater support to German companies from financial institutions, tighter restrictions on takeovers, contribute to maintaining a dynamic domestic economy the benefits of which are dispersed across the country rather than concentrated in and around the capital.
The needs to sustain local and regional business and create a UK version of Mittelstand is crucial. So what is to be done? The EOA has some budget advice for the Chancellor and I would add that we should look at employee 'right to buy' when a business is sold. This would require government-backed enterprise bank until local institutions like Caja Laboral can be established. Back to the EOA:

So what could I dare to dream of from the Chancellor this week?
That the UK Government officially recognises the employee-owned sector, and in doing so advocates and champions it via a nominated Ministerial lead.
That through this recognition, there is broad consideration of employee ownership in all policy development, and especially as HM Treasury goes about its important work of shaping the tax environment to deliver the most sustainable economic returns.
That employee ownership as a solution to business succession and scale up becomes embedded as part of the support offered by LEPs, so that every business owner is able to access advice and understand its relevance to them, from a local champion.
And that until such time as there is more widespread understanding amongst the mainstream banks of employee ownership, that there is support for the financing needs of the sector, with government-supported banks offering suitable products and security.
Employee ownership is not new; it is tested and tried and has credentials that can be seen in every sector of the economy. But just like many ideas that have yet to transcend into the mainstream, it needs government to use its voice, its influence, its advocacy and its convening power in order to realise its potential for the benefit of the UK economy.
My dream, therefore, is that Mr Hammond realises this opportunity and uses his influence to help unlock the sector's potential, and deliver more employee ownership.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Sefton Council Leader should come clean about £684,000 cost (and rising) of Bootle Strand “advice”

At last night's Council meeting I tried to get some straight answers from the Council Leader about the costs related to the £38 million pound purchase of the Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle. 

For a moment let us leaving aside the wisdom of spend such a large sum on retail property at a time when High Streets are in decline due to the Internet and this particular sight is problematical because of the near presence of Liverpool ONE- the council has been forced to agree reductions in rates because of the impact. (Added to which 3000 near by jobs are being relocated to Liverpool. The DEMOS report outlines the impact of Liverpool on the surrounding economies) Instead let us pick away an the unnecessary secrecy. Question have been dodged about the Luxembourg Company the Council bought and the tax implications. Last night I was trying to get to the bottom of the fees another area clounded in secrecy and where the council have not responded openly to press inquires. 

Here is the statement I released this morning:

Senior Lib Dem councillor Iain Brodie Browne has expressed his concern at the refusal of Sefton Council Leader Ian Maher to come clean over the cost of professional advisors employed over the controversial £32 million purchase of the Bootle Strand Shopping Centre.

Cllr Brodie Browne submitted a formal written question to Thursday evening’s (16th November) council meeting held at Southport Town Hall.

His question asked ‘would the Leader please supply, in table form, details of professional and similar charges incurred so far, to include the following: Name of Supplier, a brief description of the services supplied and the amount invoiced to date’.

However the Labour Leader declined to do so on the night, saying merely that it would be available ‘in due course’.

“There’s no excuse for the Labour Party to try and conceal this information at the present time,” says Cllr Brodie Browne. “The public, as well as opposition councillors, have a right to know how public money has been spent.”

“To try and kick this into the long grass is simply unacceptable.”

However Southport Lib Dem councillors have carried out their own investigation, using freely published data, and think they have found the answer – which is that at least £684,000 has been spent on outside advisors.

“What Cllr Maher appears to have forgotten is that all councils are required to regularly publish details of all invoices over £500.  In fact Sefton Council does this on its own website in a section called ‘Transparency Reports’,” explains Cllr Brodie Browne.

“What we have found is that there are a number of enormous invoices from firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Addleshaw Goddard and Lambert Smith Hampton, all charged to a particular cost centre UA25.  These are Tax Accountants, lawyers and property consultants respectively.”

“We’ve even managed to get hold of a copy of the largest invoice – for £205,950 + VAT – from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and when you see that includes ‘Tax Structuring and Due Diligence’, then even more suspicions are raised.”

“So what we now know is that over two-thirds of a million pounds has been spent, and that was only to the end of August.  That will almost certainly have risen even more.”

“This lack of openness from Sefton Council’s Labour leadership is simply unacceptable.”

Monday, 13 November 2017

Lab told it is time to end secrecy over tax paid on £32 million purchase

In advance of the Full Council meeting on Thursday John Pugh has issued a press statement:

Amid accusations of tax avoidance, hypocrisy and secrecy Sefton Council is being urged to publish in full the details of the controversial £32.5 million purchase of the Bottle New Stand. At the council meeting in Southport this Thursday a motion has been tabled by John Pugh which would commit Sefton Council to publish the details of the deal that was conducted via Luxembourg following tax advice.

According to Cllr Pugh. who has played a significant part in bringing the details of the transaction to public attention ,the council should be prepared if there’s nothing to hide to open the deal to wider scrutiny. 

“This isn’t councillors' or a political party's money and assets that are being speculated with.It’s the public that will pick up the tab. If the council have assisted the vendor in avoiding tax or avoided Stamp Duty themselves on the purchase by structuring the deal via a tax haven, the Luxembourg, there may be serious reputational and financial consequences. Until now the council had been astonishingly secretive and evasive on this subject. That is no way for an elected body to behave and supporting my motion and clarifying the conditions of sale as far as is possible will be a way to show the council wishes to be open and transparent. 

Openness and transparency are a major safeguard for all public bodies."

Background information:

John Pugh's motion

This council: (1) notes the concerns of several members about the purchase of the Bootle New Strand Shopping Centre; and (2) calls for the contract of sale and any additional documents relevant to the understanding of it, to be made available, without redaction or delay, to all members of council .

(2) Quote from e-mail from Cllr Maher 13th April 2017 
        "Firstly,  it is true that one of the important considerations for purchasing the company rather than the asset is that the Council would not have to pay stamp duty land tax. This is a widely accepted tax efficient way of completing the purchase. “

Friday, 3 November 2017

First Lib by election win in Southport since 1938

What a great result!  Whilst anyone who had done any canvassing felt John was going to win few expected him to scoop 56 % of the vote.   This was our first by-election GAIN in Southport since December 1938 when a certain Simms Mitchell (of who more on another occasion) won the Talbot Ward by-election. Simms came from a strong Methodist family and his Mother right up to her death in the early 1960s was a prominent member of the Southport Woman's Liberal Association.

Simms said he owed his victory, at least in in part to the Tory candidate, a Mr Hague who upset the Temperance vote-and you did that at your peril in Southport in those days. Hague’s election slogan was “Don’t be vague vote for Hague” which was based on the whisky advert. Needless to say, this did not go down well with the Temperance folk!

Monday, 30 October 2017

These pumpkins are grown for eating and that's just what I'm going to do...

part of this year pumpkin and squash harvest
The pumpkin harvest is in-and I know some of them are squashes. At this time of year shops are full of the tasteless monsters that are sold for carving. It is about time the UK caught up with the culinary potential of the squash. After years of experiment I have decided that these are the best ones for eating

  • Crown Prince, an Australian grey with dense orange flesh.  It is my favourite, the draw back is that even the small ones weigh in at 3lbs-3lbs.8oz
  • Uchi Kuri, a Japanese onion squash so called because of its shape.
  • Squashkin, this is new and is a cross before the supermarket favourite-the butternut squash, and Crown Prince. I grew it last year and again this year because I think it is a sensible size and has good flavour
  • Honey Bear, an acorn mini squash with orange flesh,  certainly the best tasting squash for one
The question is: how do you prepare them? I have some tried and tested recipes. First up one Sophie Grigson collected from a West Indian Church where it was served as part of the Harvest supper

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

Once the basic technique has been mastered of decapitating the pumpkin and scooping out the flesh, rubbing spices into the wall and baking it so it can be used as a container to serve you pumpkin dish in, the method can be adapted. I have found it works well with lamb and pumpkin red Thai curry. I keep my biggest Crown Princes for this purpose. I have also found the Crown Price excellent for Elizabeth David's Christmas Pumpkin Chutney although it is necessary to cut the chunks smaller than she suggests.

As to the small ones. I use the Uchi Kuri for roast pumpkin soup. I am experimenting with the squashkins, I think they can be stuffed like the Acorn Honey Bear. My vegetarian daughter likes mushroom and rice filling and they can be used as a side dish as here. Honey Bear is an ideal squash for one.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Sefton Lab Councillor declare 'year zero' and accept no responsibilities for 'before JC'

'Year zero' was declared by a Labour councillor at the Sefton Council meeting last week. Everything 'before JC' , as he put it they did not accept responsibility for. With JC all was made new and the world began again. We had the usual rants about how evil and wicked the Lib Dems were for agreeing to reduce the deficit. I thought it appropriate to point out the 2010  Labour manifesto proposed cuts more swingeing than those actually carried out by the Coalition. The Labour councillor did not dispute that. It simply didn't matter because it was 'before JC ' Which is rather silly because certainly the first Blair government was the most progressive of my lifetime.

I felt sorry for the Labour Councillors who were elected before JC. They had endorsed and stoutly defended the every Labour government.  They had defended the Iraq war. The Sefton Labour MP's voted for the war. The councillors refused to criticise the failure to regulate the banks, the failure to increase the stock of social housing (in fact the wretched Coalition landed up with a bigger increase in the number of social housing after 5 years than Labour did after 13). Not only did they support PFI schemes they carried them out. The over-reliance on the financial services sector, the absence of an industrial strategy and the continuing decline of manufacturing all went on without a whimper of objection. The increased centralisation and London centric bias in their administration was unchallenged. The list goes on. All were defended by the Labour party in Sefton Council. I have lost count of the number of times the then Labour Leader (now MP for Bootle) supported the Iraq war.

Of course, there is precedent for Year Zero. It was declared in Cambodia in April 1975, by the Khmer Rouge, it was an analogy to the Year One of the French Revolutionary Calendar. During the French Revolution, after the abolition of the French monarchy (September 20, 1792), the National Convention instituted a new calendar and declared the beginning of the Year I and as Lady Bracknell remarked 'I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to?' The Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh was rapidly followed by a series of drastic revolutionary de-industrialization policies resulting in a death toll that vastly exceeded that of the French Reign of Terror.

Post JC the situation is not as revolutionary as they seem to imagine. The independent and respected Institute of Fiscal Studies did an analysis of the Labour party's manifesto:

Labour got some sums wrong

Labour put out some costings alongside the manifesto, which purported to show how every spending promise would be paid for.
The IFS says the sums don’t add up. The projections are too optimistic on how much money will be raised by various taxes, and Labour have made basic accounting errors too, like quoting the wrong official figures for estimated revenue.

Business taxes don’t just squeeze the rich

Labour say they want to raise more money from a rise in corporation tax than from income tax. But squeezing big business hurts other taxpayers too: millions of pension fundholders who own shares in firms, workers whose wages might be cut and consumers who face higher prices.

Labour would cut inequality…

Labour’s plans “are likely to reduce inequality”. Under Jeremy Corbyn, those with the highest incomes would lose the most.
But changes to taxes and benefits proposed by the Lib Dems would be the most generous to people on the lowest incomes.

… but won’t reverse benefit cuts

Despite railing against Tory welfare cuts over the years, Labour do not plan to reverse most planned cuts to working-age benefits.
Again, the Lib Dems say they would go further than Labour – reversing cuts to child tax credit and the plan to freeze most benefit rates.

The biggest problem for Labour is JC's clear commitment to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union. As left-wing economists like Paul Krugman, Danny Blanchflower and even Yanis Varoufacis have all made clear JC policy on Europe will hurt British jobs and  prosperity . JC must know some of the reasons he trots out for leaving the single market are baloney but still he persists. It is worth reading Lab MEP Richard Corbett on the topic.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Dog Bin on serving Hartley Rd/ Cres, has been reported for emptying

Thanks to all those pointing out that this bin was disgusting and needed emptying. It has been reported

Friday, 22 September 2017

You are a bunch of lefties, can I join

This conversation happened at the Lib Dem Conference when I was on the SLF ( Social Liberal Forum ) stand. I was approached by a man who was attending his first conference. He had won a prize in the raffle. He explained that his son was on the Liberal Reform stall and they had told him we were a 'bunch of lefties'. He wanted to know about joining....

Left is often one those words which creates more confusion than clarity. So we should be clear that SLF stand in a long tradition of radical Liberalism as this article in the New Statesman shows its origin is traced back to the early C20th and thinkers like L.T. Hobhouse and T. H. Green, it progressed through the thinking of Keynes and Beveridge in the middle of that century and later by economists and thinkers like John Rawls and James Meade.

There is a very useful wiki page

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Dillie Keane of Fascinating Aida sings her anti Brexit song at Lib Dem Glee Club

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
The undoubted highlight of the Glee Club was Dillie Keane sing Fascinating Aida's pro Remain song Thank You Scotland. She was ntroduced by that disgruntled radical David Grace, for him, he said, it was like when Nelson Mandela met the Spice Girls.

After the usual rendition of The Land the packed hall fell silent, frankly stunned by the quality of the performance, it didn't last as the video shows. Enjoy

Monday, 11 September 2017

Thank you for the help you gave me 20 years ago says women at Lib Dem surgery

Cllr Hands and I were at our monthly surgery in the Redbrick Chapel on Liverpool Rd -as we usually are on the first Saturday of the month -when we were greeted by a women keen for our help. She began: "20 years ago you helped me and now the problem has returned. Can you help me again? Thankfully she was looking at Cllr Hands when she spoke, because I freely admit I could not place her.

True to form Richard engaged with the women and after some reminiscing  the problem was identified and a plan of action agreed.

We've been holding regular surgeries in Birkdale since 1980 so there is scope for someone to come along and test our memories from further back-mind you there are some folk who have better long term memories, Now where did I put my car keys

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Norman Lamb done in acrylic and hanging in central London

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice  and in Liberal England's  'Six of the Best'

I was killing time between meeting on Monday so I popped into the National Portrait Gallery. I have to confess that one of the reasons I chose that above other central London venues was because it is one of the few places that will accept my Brompton bike into their left luggage complete with its Harris Tweed bag.

I went to see the BP Portrait Awards for 2017 Exhibition, after checking that Mary Wollstonecraft had made it safely back from her loan visit to Russia.

I have viewed the annual exhibition in previous years when I have been waiting for meetings. When I was Mayor one of the duties was to pick the pictures for the Mayor's Parlour in Southport from the collection held at The Atkinson and I chose a local Lancashire artist Peter Layzell. His self portrait was hung in the 2010 exhibition.

Back to 2017 and the time I spent waiting. The picture that caught my eye was that of the MP for North Norfolk Norman Lamb. I don't think I have seen him without his spectacles but the Norfolk artist Paul Smith obvious felt that their absence produced a better portrait. As I was looking at it a man joined me , he was wearing the identical scarf that Paul Smith the artist had put round Norman's neck. It was my companion explained created by the designer Paul Smith. Such things , when they have to be explained to you, are not as funny.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Do not sign up to a Ruritanian costume drama played out to esoteric rules- a look at my Mayoral year

I have been surprised by the number of people who have asked me to post the contribution I made at the Mayor Making. So here are my notes:

Congratulations to the new Mayor and his wife Wendy

I would particularly like to thank my wife and three daughters who have been a great support

Council staff- esp Mike Hassett. Kevin and Stephen (my immediate predecessors) I know share my view; Mike is conscientious to a fault, 100% reliable, determined to do his best and takes great pride in his work. Amongst all the chaos of the last year, he was the one fixed star, I'm sorry he is not here to hear me say so.

To my chaplain, Rod Garner who gave me support well above the call of duty. He planned an excellent Civic Service which was appreciated by the many people who turned up. Rod also provided the space for me to reflect on the role, sadly he is not here either to hear me say good things about him. 

When I became Mayoral year ago I had a little list of things I wanted to do. I had a vision that the Mayoralty could reach out and confer civic recognition and thanks to people in our community who have often been excluded. I am pleased that I have ticked almost all of them off. I suggest, Your Worship, you do the same, it will help you give some shape and direction to your year and stop you be dragged along on the tide of other peoples’ agendas

Some would like to recruit you into a Ruritanian costume drama played out to esoteric rules. Do not be captured by them. You have been elected not appointed, have some democratic self-respect. We serve the people not some moribund set of rules in a book of etiquette that can be used to intimidate rather than include people. 

Some of the most important things I have done without pomp and circumstance, no car, no driver, no civic regalia, indeed on my bike

Ernest Jones near death, waiting for Legion d’honeur in his bed in hosp bed. I got a phone call, at short notice that all was at last in place. At his bedside I read the citation that came with his medal:  'As we contemplated this Europe of peace, we must never forget the heroes like you, who came from Britain and the Commonwealth to begin the liberation of Europe by liberating France. We owe our freedom and security to your dedication, because you were ready to risk your life.'

South Sefton Adult Ed centre, pouring rain, I turned up on my bike -drivers day off- dripping wet, penetrated my allegedly waterproofs cloths.I was to present certificates to adult learners, many who had not flourished at school and to the world their lives may have look unsuccessful. But I met folk determined to turn around their lives. Often in difficult personal circumstances, they had achieved. Education was the golden key that unlocks a better future.

In your year, Your Worship, you will meet many folk who enrich our communities: volunteers, gardeners, youth groups, faith organisation, foodbanks the list goes on and on. You will discover the vibrant music scene in the borough including vol choirs who sing in nursing homes, Musical theatre, full-scale choral societies, and small-scale chamber choirs of amazing quality. All of them enrich our communities and make this a good place to live.

Like me, you will take part in solemn acts of remembrance for those who died in two world wars and conflicts since. During your year you will mark the 100th anniversary of Sandgrounder R G Masters gaining the Victoria Cross for outstanding bravery. We owe an enormous debt to that generation.

Back to my little list: 

Mental Health 1st Civic Reception on World Mental Health day
1st Civic visit to the mosque
1st Civic reception for the LGBT+ community

Migrant workers World cake day celebration
Homeless- Christmas day lunch at the Shelter, Life for life and this week Emmaus

All on my little list

One item not achieved. One item on my little list I have not ticked off. I sometimes sit in the Mayor's Parlour and look at the list of those who have had the Freedom of the Borough conferred on them.

After 40 years there is not one women's name. I have politely pointed this out and made a firm suggestion to the powers that be. I got no response. I think now is the time that this should be rectified. 

Since the Sefton was established in 1974 only soldiers and sportsmen have been given the highest honour that the borough can bestow. Surely there are people from the Arts, Science, Industry, Academia and other walks of life who deserve this recognition. Above all else surely there ONE are women who deserve this honour.

Jean Alexander was an active citizen of the borough as well as being known to British television viewers as Hilda Ogden in the soap opera Coronation Street, a role she played from 1964 until 1987, and also as Auntie Wainwright in the long-running sitcom Last of the Summter Wine from 1988 to 2010. For her role in Coronation Street, she won the 1985 Royal Television Society Award for Best Performance, and received a 1988 BAFTA TV Award nomination for Best Actress.

During her acting career, she has received many accolades. It is surely time that her hometown honoured her.

To everything, there is a season, and my time as Mayor has come to an end. It is a privilege to serve. I have tried to do it to the best of my ability with the help and support of my family. It only remains for me to wish you, your worship, and Wendy, every success in your endeavours and when your course is done I am sure you will look back on the twelve months as a rewarding and fruitful time in public office