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.