Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Southport Councillor launches new book: ‘Four Go In Search of Big Ideas’



A new book was launched in Southport this week. Iain Brodie Browne was one of four people who came together to seek out ‘big ideas’.
Iain explained: ‘We are angry and frustrated about the state of politics in Britain, it is too short term, too tribal and fails to face up to some of the big challenges that confront our nation and our planet. I am pleased to contribute an essay and to be one of the four who produced the book.


The new book, which is available from Broadhurst’s Bookshop in Southport, attempts to look at some of those issues. We approached people from across the progressive political spectrum to contribute. I am pleased that we got an excellent response. Independent academics, politicians from different parties and none were involved, they put aside party differences to discuss important issues.

As the introduction to the book, Four Go in Search of Big Ideas, makes clear that ya-boo culture in politics is stopping progress:

‘Challenging conventional wisdom is hard work, particularly when it’s embedded in public opinion or party stereotypes. We need to break down the barriers between political tribes which inhibit open discussion on big policy issues such as those addressed in this book. Many of these ideas are broadly shared by people of a progressive perspective across party boundaries. Our goal is not just to win political office and to manage the system within the constraints of existing opinions and prejudices. We want to create a shared analysis of problems and a new political narrative so that we can forge a new future based on very different attitudes.’
Please support Broadhurst’s our local independent bookshop, but if for any reason you can’t get there the book is online at http://www.socialliberal.net


Contributors include:
Vince Cable
Norman Warner (Minister of Health in the last Labour Government
Helen Flynn, Chair of the Social Liberal Forum
Ed Davey ( Lib Dem and formerly Secretary of State for the Environment and Climate change)
Professor David Howarth Cambridge Univeristy
Richard Corbett Lab MEP and Leader of the Labour Group at the European Parliament
Professor Alex Marsh University of Bristol
Stuart White Fellow at Jesus College Oxford
Rebecca Taylor formerly Lib Dem MEP for Yorkshire
Edward Robinson on Climate Change


Friday, March 16, 2018

Four Go In Search of Big Ideas

I am one of the The ‘Four’ who came together 60 years after George Watson’s book The Unservile State unleashed a host of radical, liberal and distributivist ideas. We believe the time has come for a new initiative, building on those ideas and new ones for the world we now inhabit.


Our excellent Independent Bookshop
is stocking the book
We are angry and frustrated about the state of politics in Britain, it is too short term, too tribal and fails to face up to some of the big challenges that confront our nation and our planet.


The new book, which is available from Broadhurst’s Bookshop in Southport, attempts to look at some of those issues. We approached people from across the progressive political spectrum to contribute. I am pleased that we got an excellent response. Independent academics, politicians from different parties and none were involved, they put aside party differences to discuss important issues.
As the introduction to the book, Four Go in Search of Big Ideas, makes clear that ya-boo culture in politics is stopping progress:

Helen Flynn editor, is joined at the launch by
Prof David Howarth and Rt Hon Ed Davey


‘Challenging conventional wisdom is hard work, particularly when it’s embedded in public opinion or party stereotypes. We need to break down the barriers between political tribes which inhibit open discussion on big policy issues such as those addressed in this book. Many of these ideas are broadly shared by people of a progressive perspective across party boundaries. Our goal is not just to win political office and to manage the system within the constraints of existing opinions and prejudices. We want to create a shared analysis of problems and a new political narrative so that we can forge a new future based on very different attitudes.’
Please support Broadhurst’s our local independent bookshop, but if for any reason you can’t get there the book is online at http://www.socialliberal.net

There are three main sections of the book, Economics, Welfare Society and Climate Change and a final essay on Europe

I was chiefly involved in the first section for which I wrote the introduction and which includes essays by Professor David Howarth, Stuart White, David Boyle and Vince Cable. This section clearly follows on from the Unservile State. The first two essays grapple with maldistribution of ownership and challenge the current rights that accrue to ownership in the British economy. Both draw on the long radical tradition including Mill, Keynes and Meade. This was dominant tradition in the party of my youth. At the time of George Watson's book a battle for the soul of our party was being fought out between those who wanted to turn the party into a 'free market' economic sect and social liberals under the banner of the Radical Reform Group. A generation later the proponents of the 'sect' re-emerged with the Orange Book. David Howarth's magisterial reassertion of the social liberal position is worth the £9.50 by itself, but in addition we have Stuart White rehearsing the importance of that tradition and challenging us to reconnect with those ideas.

I shall return to the final essays by David Boyle and Vince Cable but for now here is and extract from David Howarth:

Professor David Howarth, formerly LibDem MP for Cambridge, contributes to the new Social Liberal Forum book with a powerful, closely argued essay on Liberal economics. This an extract:
Here is a puzzle: if JS Mill, JM Keynes and James Meade were all Liberals and economists, what is a ‘neo-liberal’ economist? One might have thought that it would be someone who updated their thought to consider new facts and new problems.
In a highly successful example of propaganda and disinformation, ‘neoliberal’ has come to mean the doctrines of Friedrich Hayek or Milton Friedman. But those doctrines are anything but ‘neo’. They hark back to the era before Mill. We need to rectify names. Instead of ‘neo-liberals’ the followers of Hayek and Friedman might be called ‘paleo-partial liberals’.
The next step is to reclaim the Liberal tradition. That was the avowed aim of the editors of the Orange Book, but what some of them seemed to mean was not updating Mill, Keynes and Meade but abandoning them in favour of paleo-partial liberalism. Admittedly the diagnosis was not entirely wrong. The Liberal Democrats, as a political party, had wandered a long way from the Liberal tradition and had succumbed to various forms of conventional wisdom.
But the most distinctive feature of Liberal policy was its stance on corporate governance. From Mill onwards, through the Yellow Book to support for codetermination, Liberals argued for a different way of organising firms, not as hierarchical structures dominated by the owners of capital but as partnerships between labour and capital, incorporating democratic representation. James Meade provided a continuation and deepening of this tradition that should have formed the basis of the merged party’s position.
The Liberal Party showed interest in another intellectual movement pre-figured by Mill, ecological economics and rejection of GDP growth as a universal measure of success.
The way forward, as seen from the early 1980s, was a new synthesis of old themes: economic policy should be aimed at political liberation; the market is a useful tool but not a God; the aim of political liberation encompasses reform of the internal organisation of firms on a more democratic basis; and the search for endless environmentally damaging economic growth is a painful phase elongated by mistakes of policy. Added to those older themes a newer theme was awaiting incorporation, the theme of community, which was the centre of the party’s community politics but whose economic consequences were never fully thought through. The value of voluntary association and small scale collective effort as an alternative to both the market and the state was implicit, but the economics of community remained largely unspoken.
But that new synthesis did not happen. Instead the party drifted into dull conformity with a centre ground between paleo-partial liberals and conventional macro-economics. Eventually the Orange Book took the party so deep into that conventional wisdom that it became indistinguishable from other parties ‘of government’ (which was, of course, its purpose).
Regardless of why the new Liberal synthesis failed to materialise in the previous generation, it is now time to revive it. That means above all reclaiming the name Liberal. The Liberal tradition in economics is that of Mill, Keynes and Meade, and now Ostrom, not that of Hayek and Friedman. The question is where it goes next.



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Southport Libdem Conference Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea

Morning coffee at The Atkinson in a café run as a social enterprise by the charity Autism Initiatives called A Great Little  Place is recommended .This venue is part of the Atkinson Art Gallery/Museum/Theatre/Library complex on Lord St next to the Town Hall. There is lots going on there during the conference, check out their
calendar of events


 Caron Lindsay rather jumped the gun by mentioning Afternoon Tea when she was reporting the most read Libdem blogs last week. Now is the moment:

Southport is fortunate to have a goodly number of independent tea room. We do, of course have some chain operating as well. My advice is to check out the former. Let us start with Lillibets Tearoom (and here I am reviewing their pastries and not their politics.) I have to say, in my opinion, it is the best. It is situated on Lord Street. If you walk up to Lord St from the conference along Neville St turn left into Lord Street, five minutes walk) As they say on their website 'Our signature pâtisserie is entirely handmade on the premises using the finest, fresh ingredients which we mostly import from France to ensure the highest quality and authenticity. Our delectable pâtisserie is made daily (and the range changes seasonally as it does in France!) and can tempt you from our display cabinet in the tea rooms. We use free range eggs which come from ‘Happy Hens’, juicy Madagascan vanilla pods and always oodles of fresh seasonal fruit from our local Grocers in Birkdale village.'


all photos from Lillibets
Westminster Tea Rooms  also on Lord Street, this time turn left onto Lord Street from Neville Street. Finally the Nostalgia Tea Room also on Lord St on the way to the Westminster. The big hotels also serve afternoon Tea and I have heard good things about Vincent Hotel







Southport's biggest employer and the impact of 750 people working in a residential area

John Pugh and I outside Smedley Hydro
Over the years there have been complaints about parking in the roads around Smedley. A little background will assist in understanding the issue. This Government facility which includes the staff with the Home Office and NHS digital is Southport's biggest single employer. There are about 750 staff overwhelmingly drawn from the local area.  There are only 245 car parking spaces. It is not difficult to see why residents close to the facility feel they have a problem.

The issue was raised at the public Forum in Southport Town Hall and so it was John and I arranged to meet folk at Smedley to discuss the issue. In fairness the number of complaints I have received has significantly diminished over the years, a judicial application of yellow paint has helped as have the approach of the Smedley staff. As a generalisation I would say that the difficult manoeuvre of managing the disruption when 750 staff turn up to work in the heart of a residential area has been broadly achieved. There are, and will continue to be, incidents when that co-existence is not as successful as all would wish.

Since my last engagement with this issue Smedley have introduced a 1 mile rule that precludes anyone living in that distance from having a car parking space. And so it is that it is not unusual to see folk walking to work and some cycling. Smedley have introduced a drying room and a shower facility and the council have funded an extra cycle shed. I enquired about the take up of the Bike2WorkScheme but this being the Civil Service they didn't have figures, it was dealt with by another department. I intend to follow up this point. As the photo shows I cycled there as I live close by (I'm the one who forgot to take his cycle clips off).They have a car share scheme but in truth the numbers taking that up, although welcome, are not significant.

Smedley also have flexible working pattern which reduces the 'rush hour impact' and the night shift is only about 40 people.

I suspect that this is one of those issues that require eternal vigilance. A less concerned team at Smedley could easily result in local chaos

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Birkdale flooding

'Arty' photo by SJS
Residents have been reporting problems with drainage. I have reported several sites to the council where the situation is significantly worse than is usually experienced after a downpour. These include outside Tesco's on Liverpool Rd, Halsall Rd and Hartley Cres where this photo was taken.

The gullies have been cleared but the problems persist suggesting that some more significant is the at fault. I am pleased to see workmen at the Tesco site but I am still awaiting confirmation of when the other sites will be dealt with.

The incidents of flooding are on the increase as we experience more extreme weather events. This is happening right across the globe. Scientists are convinced that many of these are events are a consequence of man made climate change. 

Humans are increasingly influencing the climate and the earth's temperature by burning fossil fuels, cutting down rainforests and farming livestock.
This adds enormous amounts of greenhouse gases to those naturally occurring in the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect and global warming.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Lib Dem Southport Conference, places to go for food, drink and visit for interest starting with breakfast



The tide comes in at Southport surrounding the longest iron pier in Britain 

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice The Lib Dem Conference is coming to Southport in March so I thought it might be helpful to if I did a guide to our town. In later posts I will go into more detail about some of the things that should be part of any visit to the town like the British Lawnmower Museum, excellent bookshops like my favourite Broadhurst's , the best places for afternoon tea (top choice Lillibet's), pubs and breweries, restaurants, Southport shrimps ,fish and chip shops, our brilliant municipal gardens, RSPB nature reserve, and will even do some research about our championship golf courses. And if you take a walk at twilight along the sand dunes at Birkdale you make hear the Natterjack toads.

Close by to Southport you can see the Red Squirrels at Freshfield, or visit the Wildfowl andWetlands Trust Nature Reserve at Martin Mere  or the Anther Place- Gormley's statues on Crosby Beach.


Oh, and did you know that Southport provided the inspiration and template for the tree line boulevards for Paris? Louis Napoleon lived in the town when he was in exile in 1846. Check it out  and in a Guardian Leader and in the Southport Visiter

And we have a bust of Dan Dare from the Eagle comic which was created in Southport

We'll start with breakfast...If you are self catering or have a room only deal you may be looking for breakfast. I suggestion would be Tapper's in Union St opposite the Guest House pub-more of which later



Friday, January 26, 2018

Keeping pensioners in the dark


Back in December the street light (No 5) went out in Grantham Close and the elderly residents in the maisonettes reported it to the council. Opposite their homes the is a big open space and, understandably, they were concerned that the unlit street made them insecure. The darkest and longest nights of the winter passed and there was no action from Sefton council despite residents chivvying the council. As I write the light is still out. This is an unacceptable level of service from the council. Street lighting plays an important part in helping residents feel safe. The housing development id principally for older people and you would have hoped the Council could have got its act together to sort out this problem. I have now taken the matter up with the council and I hope it is will soon be sorted.

Tuesday, December 12, 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:


TRUSSELL TRUST FOODBANKS:



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, December 9, 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, December 8, 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, November 29, 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