Friday, December 15, 2006

Legalising Prostitution

According to the Daily Post, Dr John Elford, former Canon of Liverpool Cathedral has today called for the legalisation of prostitution saying we must have compassion for the women who find themselves in this terrible situation.

I do have compassion for them, like him I want them to be helped and supported to give up taking drugs, assisted with their debt problems, helped with housing and child care.

Like him, I endlessly worry about very young women in incredible danger on our streets. Prostitutes have been attacked and killed in Liverpool just as they have in Ipswich.

Like him I worry about families living in places like Sheil Road whose lives have been made a misery by prostitution in their area.

Where I cannot agree with him though is that the answer to this exploitation, misery and abuse is to legalise prostitution.

It is not right that young women should be forced to sell their own bodies to men for their sexual gratification. It wont ever be right and no amount of tidying prostitution up and finding some safe corner of an industrial estate to put a monitored brothel will change this fact.

If you legalise prosititution then you condone exploitation of young vulnerable women, you say that it is okay for men to abuse and defile them, just because they have paid.

I will never tolerate that, my compassion wouldn't let me.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week

Louise Baldock is supporting the first ever Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week which is launched today is the Houses of Parliament.

Louise, Labour Councillor for Kensington and Fairfield lost her fiance in a Carbon Monoxide poisoning accident in January 1999. Since then she has campaigned to raise awareness of this deadly poison whenever she can and particularly around autumn time when people first start to light fires and boilers.

"Michael Price was only 45 when he died. He had flu-like symptoms and cuddled up with a quilt in front of his Parkray stove. He burnt smokeless fuel and did not know that there had been a fall in his chimney which had blocked it. The fumes filled the room and eventually killed him. It was a devastating time for me, for his family, for his friends. There were times I didn't think I would ever get over it.

But now what is important for Michael and for all those he left behind, is that we don't forget and we don't sit idly by. I am proud to join the campaign to raise awareness because we need to do much more."

There are three main areas we need to campaign in
1. Everyone should have a detector in their house. There are three main types; one is a postcard with a little dot that changes colour if there is a problem with the gas. They cost buttons. The second type is pretty much like your average smoke detector, battery operated, also pretty cheap. Then there is the type I have which is plugged into the wall and it takes a scan of the atmosphere every so many seconds. They cost about £40.
I wouldnt be able to sleep without my detector being plugged in.

2. Everyone should know what the symptoms are; flu-like symptoms, dizziness, loss of memory, nausea, vagueness - remember you cannot smell Carbon Monoxide so you have to look for other signs. If you think you might have been poisoned, get the windows open, get the doors open, go outside.

3. It is not just gas boilers! If a process causes carbon then it causes carbon monoxide. Remember Michael was burning smokeless fuel in his Parkray, it wasn't a boiler that killed him.
Get your chimney swept or your boiler serviced every year, put it in your diary now.

I asked at the last Community Safety meeting of Kensington Regeneration if the Fire Service were taking action to provide CO alarms in the same way they do for Smoke. Colin Murphy, local Station Master was enthusiastic about setting up such a scheme. He said a colleague of his had died of CO poison some years ago and he thought it would be very fitting and very well received. He promised to go away and find out about how much it could cost to provide CO detectors in Kensington. The committee seemed keen to support the idea too.

If we can get CO detectors into Kensington homes and save just one life it will have been worth it and I will really believe we have been able to make a difference. I will keep you posted

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Police activity in the area in October

I know it is fashionable to criticise the police, the LibDems in my ward have turned it into an art form, but I think they are doing a great job in Kensington and Fairfield. Here is a selection of just a few entries in a report by Inspector Charnock of some of the work they were doing in the ward last month (of course it is all written in "cop" speak).

On 7th October 2006 officers arrested a male for persistently masturbating in the grounds
of Limecourt Day Centre on Upper Baker Street, Liverpool 7. Over a short period of time there had been a number of incidents were a male had been seen masturbating in the car park of the centre, causing distress to the vulnerable disabled persons who use the premises.
The officers put a lot of time and effort into gathering evidential statements and viewing
CCTV footage. The male was subsequently identified and arrested. On interview he admitted
offences of masturbating in the grounds of the centre on two separate occasions.

On 8th October 2006 officers responded to a report of a traffic accident that had occurred
in Boaler Street, Liverpool 7. A motor vehicle had driven into the side of a taxi and the driver
had driven away from the scene without stopping.
The taxi driver managed to circulate the details of the vehicle to other taxi drivers in the
area. Taxi drivers made to the area and assisted the Police in searching nearby streets to
locate the offender. The offending vehicle was located by a taxi driver and, with the help of
his colleagues, blocked in until the Police attended.
The driver was breath tested and found to be over the drink drive limit. He was arrested, his
vehicle seized and he was taken to St Anne Street Police Station.

On 9th October 2006 officers were on patrol in Onslow Road, Liverpool 7 when they saw a
male, driving his vehicle in the opposite direction, who they knew had been wanted for over 18
months on Magistrates Court warrants for traffic related offences. The officers managed to
turn their vehicle around and catch up with the male. The vehicle stopped for the officers
but the driver offered a false named, date of birth and address. After the officers had
explained to the male that they knew exactly who he was, he admitted his true identity and
was subsequently arrested.

On 10th October 2006 officers engaged in prostitution initiative, Operation Rose, were on
patrol in the area of Sheil Park. Whilst patrolling they observed a group of males acting in a
suspicious manner and went over to speak to them. Enquiries revealed that one of the group
was currently wanted on a recall to prison and was flagged as a priority offender for his
active involvement in Burglary offences throughout North Liverpool. The male was arrested
to be returned to HMP Walton.

On 10th October 2006 – As part of the Sheil Road prostitution initiative, Operation Rose (which I support wholeheartedly), two addresses were raided in Sheil Road under Misuse of Drugs Act warrants. The occupants of the addresses are believed to be responsible for supplying illegal drugs to sex workers who have been operating in the area and allowing people to use the premises for the purpose of taking drugs. Evidence of drug misuse has been obtained and enquiries continue to have the premises closed under ‘Crack House’ closure legislation.

On 13th October 2006 Road Safety Unit officers conducted an ANPR (Automatic Number
Plate Recognition) Operation on Prescot Road, Liverpool 7. The purpose of the Operation, as
well as promoting Road Safety, was to target kerb-crawlers using their vehicles to pick up sex
workers in the area of Sheil Road, Liverpool 7. As a result of the Operation – 50 vehicles were stopped - 11 people were summonsed or issued fixed penalty notices for road traffic related offences – 8 vehicles were seized under Section 152 of the Serious and Organised Crime Act

A further operation two weeks later on 22nd October resulted in over 50 vehicles being stopped
and the drivers spoken to. 12 vehicles were seized for having no insurance. 3 persons were
arrested under immigration offences for being in the U.K illegally and 6 fixed penalty notices
for traffic related offences were issued. Whilst conducting the operation, local residents
voiced their support to officers of how the level of Sex workers and their clients working the
area had dramatically reduced.

On 17th October 2006 officers from Tuebrook Neighbourhood conducted an Operation to
target licensed premises suspected of selling alcohol to minors. The Operation was run in
partnership with officers from the Trading Standards Unit. Four premises were identified
for controlled purchases to be made. Of the four premises, two premises challenged the
under aged cadets and refused to sell to them, therefore complying with the licensing laws.
Two premises sold alcohol to the minors without question. The first was an Off License on
West Derby Road where they sold a bottle of Bacardi to the youngsters. The second was an
Off License on Prescot Road in Kensington where they sold a bottle of ‘Reef’ alcoholic drink. (I wonder if you can guess which one this was?)
The licensee of both premises received an on the spot fine of £80.00 and the details have
been forwarded to the area licensing department for follow up enquiries to be carried out.

On 19th October 2006 officers responded to a report of a fight at the junction of Romer
Road and Molyneux Road, Liverpool 7. The report stated that one of the males was armed
with a machete. Upon arrival the officers found a male who was bleeding badly from a serious
wound to his forehead. The wound was consistent with being attacked by such a weapon.
Enquiries by the officers revealed that the offender lived at an address in Ridley Road, L6.
The officers immediately made to the Ridley Road address where a male answered the door.
Upon sighting the Police, the male attempted to run back inside the address but was quickly
detained. The male was arrested on suspicion of wounding and the house was searched. A
meat cleaver, numerous knives and a 3ft ornamental sword were recovered from the address.

On 30th October 2006 officers responded to a report that a male had collapsed at an address
in Gilroy Road, Liverpool 6. Upon arrival at the scene they were greeted by a female who had
a serious cut to her eye and bleeding to her head. The female had been stabbed and it was
established that the male responsible was still inside the premises.
The officers conducted a systematic search of the house in order to locate the offender,
who was potentially still armed with a knife. The officers located the offender hiding in one
of the rooms and he was arrested for a wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The female was treated in hospital for her injuries.

............the actual report is 18 pages long! I told the Inspector that I believe that more people should be aware of the work they do and his report should get a bigger audience. I hope that my publishing little extracts on here will help that to happen.

You can find out more by going to the police's own website by clicking on the title to this post.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Not Drunk Enough - license application

I had a big surprise this week.

An application has been submitted recently for an extension of opening hours, from 10pm until 4am as I recall, for an off licence on Prescot Road, Fairfield named Not Drunk Enough.

You couldn't make up a name like that, could you!

Anyway, I was phoned by the local Chair of the Fairfield Area Residents Assocation (FARA) to alert me to the fact that objections were going to be raised at that evenings residents association meeting. So I got onto the Licensing Department and they sent me the relevant form for objecting to the plans.

I took the form to the meeting and the 30 or so people there had a big debate about the application. They were united in their opposition to the proposed opening hours. So were the other agencies present.

I read out the four possible grounds for objecting -
Add to problems of crime or disorder
Harm public safety
Cause an unreasonable public nuisance
Put children at risk of harm

and residents identified particular concerns that fitted into each of these categories.

We agreed a form or words and I completed the form and signed it.

I wrote on the bottom of the form that I was submitting this on behalf of the residents association.

I handed the form in to the Licensing officers the next day.

Unfortunately they have refused to accept it because apparently Councillors are not allowed to object to licensing applications unless they are personally affected by them and live in the vicinity.

How utterly and totally ridiculous!

What was the ODPM thinking of to come up with something so stupid when they created the Licensing Act of 2003.

Who better than me to put forward the views of my residents? Me, the democratically elected community leader?

Consequently I had to get the Licensing officers to send our completed form to a number of local residents who had been at the meeting so that they could recreate it on new forms and sign it themselves.

I understand, having just done a bit of research, that lots of people are complaining about this all over the country, not just me. I think we should start a campaign to have this put right. Obviously it wont be the ODPM any more, my first job will be to find out who now has responsibility, I am wondering about the DCMS given Tessa's occasional speeches on the subject of 24 hour drinking.

Who wants to sign up to it with me?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Campaign to Save Woolton Cinema

As a member of the Heritage Scrutiny Panel on Liverpool City Council and as a cinema goer, I am very happy to support this campaign. Local private cinemas are historically very important as well as giving great ambience and a great viewing experience.

There is a benefit gig at the New Picket on Friday night, 1st December and also a stall at a Farmers' market being planned as part of the fundraising efforts to get enough money to buy the cinema.

Do go on their website - accessed by clicking the title of this entry and have a look at all of their activities.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fathers who kill their children

I have been worrying about the growing numbers of fathers murdering their children for a while now, and yet nobody seems to want to talk about it. So I am grateful to the Guardian for this article (which you can access via clicking on the title of this entry) which covers this topic very thoroughly.

In fact it says all the things I have been thinking.

Like the fact that we seem to find excuses for these men, that it was not really their fault, that the wife had brought it on herself by daring to want to leave or see another man. I dont see it like that, they are self-indulgent, rage-filled "I'll show you" acts and as a woman I cant quite get my head round that, because we dont work that way.

I know there was an outpouring of sympathy for the man who threw his children off a hotel balcony when he was shown to be suffering so much afterwards, but I didnt much feel it myself, although they said in the papers that he had done it because he could not bear to live without them if his wife left him, I instinctively knew straight away that he did it to punish her.

Public shame and humiliation and the knowledge that as he had not died himself but would now have to live with his wife's hatred were what made him feel so dreadful - he had hoped to escape all that part leaving her bereft and powerless.

Like the fact that women who kill their children are usually suffering from post-natal depression or some other kind of mental illness, the men are usually sane, which makes it much worse. (Only 1 in 20 of parents who kill their children are women)

Like the fact that men who kill their children regard them as their possessions rather than human beings in their own right and it is this "ownership" which they believe gives them the power over life and death.

The Guardian article was printed on November 5th, it has happened another twice since then. The very next day in Bodelwyddan two children were murdered by their father, yesterday a man was arrested for murdering his wife, her brother and their two children in Newcastle.

I have also noticed that a large proportion of the murderers are ethnic minority fathers who have come to live here from other countries. I wonder if that is significant? Do families in other countries, in the developing worlds, have a different outlook about family members being posessions owned by the man, than we tend to do in the west? I think that must be the case.

There are white British men murdering their children too, so we shouldnt perhaps make too much of that. But this article says that generally the murderers hate their wife, not their children which again chimes with my thinking.

I think that if we are going to stop this dreadful thing happening, to reduce the incidence of fathers murdering their children (whether or not they also commit suicide) then we need to begin campaigning for more recognition for children. Children are not adjuncts of their parents, not possessions, not pawns, not tools to be manipulated to hurt someone else. They are people in their own right, small people of course, but still people.

We have to campaign so that fathers the world over understand what mothers dont usually have to be taught, that children are precious and while they are young and vulnerable they need us to look after them so that they can blossom into adulthood and start to look after themselves.

I feel the same about smacking children, it is the worst thing, to physically hit someone just because they are small. You wouldn't hit an adult, you know that is wrong, but you think it is okay to hit a tiny defenseless child, because "it is the only way". Lots of people get through parenthood without hitting their children, perhaps we should all watch supernanny a bit more often!

What kind of a world are we living in? And why is nobody talking about this? It is so depressing, when I heard about the family in Cyprus who were gassed by Carbon Monoxide my first thought was the father had killed the children, I never thought of the gas - and those of you who know me would be amazed to hear that. Since Michael's death in 1999 I assume all deaths have been caused by CO until told otherwise, but in recent months I have started assuming it was the father, how very sad and depressing.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What kind of intelligence do you have?

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence
You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.You are also good at remembering information and convincing someone of your point of view.A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.
You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

There you go, my mate Suzanne should be a politician because she has "Interpersonal Intelligence" and I should be a politician because I have Linguistic Intelligence. I wonder if everyone that does the quiz should be a politician? Anyone else had a go?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Plans for a Social Enterprise in Kensington

I met Terry Molloy today.

He is being employed by Kensington Regeneration (the body that distributes the funds for Kensington New Deal for Communities).

He is charged with drawing up plans for a construction training centre to teach 20-30 young people in the area some quality building and construction skills through apprenticeships.

He has already spoken to some of the big developers and builders in the area who would be keen to support the trainees. Now all he needs is the money and the land to build the centre and run it.

I have promised to research land and premises opportunities for him.

He has to present his plans by the end of March, let's hope they are accepted and brought into being.

There is going to be a huge amount of building, regeneration and renewal in the area, if the New Deal plans are right, and we need the people working on those sites to be our young people who are otherwise most likely to end up working in MacDonalds on a fiver an hour.

Start thinking positive thoughts now!

Councillor training in media

Liverpool City Council, in conjunction with the University of Chester, is running a professional course for Councillors which will eventually result in a Certificate in Higher Education for those who are successful.

I began my first module this week, Media training.

You could be guilty of assuming that as a former Parliamentary Press Officer I dont have much to learn but you would be mistaken. It is one thing to advise someone else about their media activities, and to promote them (unmercifully) in the media, but quite another thing when it is you, yourself, that is under the spotlight.

We learnt this week about being interviewed by the written media (newspapers) and the radio. In a month's time we are going to the University's campus in Warrington to practice TV interviewing in a proper (dummy) set.

I did a dummy radio interview, colleagues seemed to think it went okay but you are never sure. I dont worry about how I sound or whether I gabble, I worry about saying the wrong thing. I expect it is the same for all politicians, especially if you have someone as agressive as John Humphries interviewing you.

I learnt a few tricks that I hope will serve me well if the local radio stations ever want to talk to me.

But in any case, it is great to have formal training and I was surprised how well we worked together as a group, supporting each other, even though we are from different parties.

I can't wait to practice TV interviews in a proper studio!

Liverpool's 800th birthday celebrations

As the only Labour councillor on the scrutiny panel looking at the plans for next year's 800th birthday celebrations I do feel a certain responsibility to ensure that they contain something for everyone and are well thought through.

I have enjoyed the experience, although it is a bit difficult to scrutinise something that has not happened yet, but that is part of the challenge.

I am convinced the plans will be well received although for some reason they are much less famous than the plans for o8 European City of Culture, even though they are of huge importance for local people. If 08 is about tourists, next year's celebrations are about Liverpool people right here in the city.

I am particularly excited by the proposed unveiling of the refurbished and magnificent St George's Hall on St George's Day in April with a big party for local people. I also enjoyed meeting the artist who has designed a special coin for every child in the city that they will be able to keep as a souvenir of this auspicious time.

There will be some great new museums opening too.

I have made a plea for the genealogists amongst us in particular, that there is plenty for people whose family came from Liverpool, or through Liverpool, on their way to the new world. It is the biggest hobby in the world and we could get almost more visitors through that route than through culture if we really wanted to (not that the "new" city will have been built yet, in 2007).

I am very happy to talk to anyone about the birthday plans and hopefully will be able to get hold of my own copy of the great DVD which details the history of the city over the last 800 years since King John granted the charter.

It is going to be great - and if it is not then you know who to point the finger at for her failure to adequately scrutinise!

Remembrance Sunday

Sunday's Remembrance Day service at St George's Hall was very moving.

I think it is very important to remember those usually very young men, and some women, who died in battles and wars because they believed it was their duty. I think it is also very important to remember those who died in battles and wars they did not even want to be part of, but were conscripted to engage in.

I never have a problem supporting poppy day or Remembrance Sunday, some of my family fought in wars, my great grandfather Sidney Baldock was seriously injured in WW1, his son, my grandfather, Arthur Sidney Baldock won the Oak Leaf for his part in the evacuation of Dunkirk. He was also an ARP warden.

My other grandfather, John Millward, worked nights at Goodyears making tyres for tanks

They deserve nothing less than that we give up an hour once a year to honour and remember them

You dont have to believe in war to honour those who put the people of their country before themselves.

We had a very big event at the Cenotaph at St George's Hall and I was proud to attend as a civic representative of a ward from where many men have gone to many wars.

More than half the Labour Group of councillors were in attendance, a good showing, but I think perhaps next year we might want to think about a three-line whip.

Inside Justice week

Merseyside justice system opens its doors to the public

The public in Merseyside will have the chance to gain a unique glimpse behind the criminal justice system as this year's Inside Justice Week gets underway across the county.

Activities planned include interactive trials with local schoolchildren playing the major roles in St Georges Hall, mock sentencing events and open days at Liverpool's Community Justice Centre, Birkenhead Magistrates' Court, Kirkby police station and North Sefton Magistrates' Court, Inside Justice Week roadshows and a University Challenge style competition for students across Liverpool.

Merseyside Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe, chair of Merseyside Criminal Justice Board said:
"Justice matters to everyone: in any decent society justice must be done and be seen to be done. The Criminal Justice System must also have the confidence of the law-abiding majority.

This is why Inside Justice Week is so important. It is a chance for the public throughout Merseyside, who may have never come into contact with the justice system, to look behind the scenes , ask questions and find out more.

ìThe justice system is for the public. It only works when they are prepared to be witnesses, complainants or jurors. Please come and look at any of the event"

Prime Minister Tony Blair said:

"Inside Justice Week is a great opportunity for the public to see what goes on behind the scenes of our courts, police stations and prisons. I believe such openness can only help improve public understanding of the challenges our criminal justice system faces and the dedication of the staff who work within it. This dedication is recognised through the Justice Awards which celebrate just some of the outstanding contributions of front-line staff. They deserve all our thanks for their hard work and commitment."

Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland said "I am delighted to welcome in the third annual Inside Justice Week.

I hope the week will give the public a clearer understanding of the criminal justice systemís inner workings ñ be it through taking a rare look inside a court room at an open day or speaking to frontline staff at a community road show.

Frontline staff and local communities play a critical role in building an effective and fair justice system. Inside Justice Week is all about celebrating and encouraging this contribution."

The aim of this year's Inside Justice Week is to open up the justice system to the public in order to:

Increase people's knowledge and understanding of the
Criminal Justice System
Encourage people to get involved by publicising the range of career and volunteering opportunities available in the Criminal Justice System
Inform people about the support available should they come into contact with the justice system, either as a victim of crime, witness, juror or as someone accused of a crime.

Inside Justice Week runs across England and Wales from 18-25 November. For more information about the campaign, please visit

The winners of the Justice Awards will be announced on 24 November. For more information, please visit

Friday, November 03, 2006

Save our statues

I have joined the Liverpool Daily Post's campaign to save Another Place by Anthony Gormley on Crosby Beach. If you click on the title of this story it will take you to their website and you can see photos and sign the petition.

I have been to see them lots of times and always take visitors from out of the area. They are wonderful, awesome, majorly thought-provoking and a fabulous and fantastic coup for the people of Merseyside.

They were installed by Anthony Gormley who is the sculptor of the world-renowned Angel of the North. He modelled the statues in his own likeness and they stand, a hundred of them, in waves along the beach for as far as the eye can see, looking out to sea and being buffeted by the tide.

He intended them to be a temporary installation, they have already been to other places round the world and are due to be moved to America any day now. However, he said when he saw them installed at Crosby (which is a bit north of Liverpool in the Sefton local authority) that they were clearly at home and were meant to stay.

The region was then tasked with finding enough money to buy them and keep them.

Before we could really get going with this though, a local Tory Councillor opposed the planning application to keep them as she said they were a health and safety hazard. Apparently one or two statues are in a bad place and might threaten passing water traffic and there is a worry that some people might wander out too far to look at one of the statues and get caught by the incoming tide. So they threw the plans out and the statues are currently, as I write, destined to leave.

We now need to persuade the planning committee on Sefton council to see sense, allow Gormley to relocate the odd statue that is in a bad place and save the day. A few notices on the beach and perhaps a bit of common sense might solve some of the other problems.

As an enthusiastic member of the Heritage Select Committee on Liverpool City Council, I really value our region's art provision. Some parts of the national media like to portray Merseyside as a blighted place, derelict, run-down and without charm or beauty.

I hope the successful bid to be European City of Culture in 2008 will go a long way to rewriting this perception. Indeed as you ascend the elevators at Euston station in London, or arrive at John Lennon Airport, you see a marketing campaign for 08, encouraging people to visit the area and see what a great place it really is culturally.

The statues feature heavily in the campaign, they are a powerful example of our love of art and illustrate the fact that we have more art galleries than any city outside of London. They are also a symbol of our looking ahead, looking forward, into a positive future full of renewal and regeneration.

If these statues are torn from the beach we will have lost a wonderful work of art beloved by many but we will also have lost our reputation in the art world; the 08 city of culture will be a hollow experience without them.

Sign the petition today

Corporate Parenting - a bad mother?

I went to see the Regional Director of the National Children's Home charity last week because he had written to me after my election, offering to tell me about their work with local children and with sure start projects and so on.

Long before I was elected to the council I was made aware that Councillors are corporate parents to all the looked-after children in their authority.

Since becoming elected I have been increasingly aware that I have been a bad mother, I have neglected my children because I do not know what support they need from me.

Paul Moore at NCH has spent 30 years working with looked-after children before he went to NCH and he asked me a whole series of questions, none of which I knew the answer to.

He asked me how many children I have (how many are looked-after in Liverpool), I said I did not know, perhaps about a thousand, he pointed out that parents should know how many kids they have, not just guess!

He asked me how many are fostered, how many in residential care, how many are waiting to be adopted, again I didn't know

He asked me how my kids are doing at school, how many of the older ones are expected to get good grades in their GCSEs - what kind of a mother does not know this sort of thing?

He asked me if they were visiting the dentist regularly, if they were getting plenty of exercise... I was a total blank.

So, I asked him to help me become a better parent. He has offered to put on training for me and all of my colleagues on the council, to let us know how we can be more effective and make sure that our children are getting what they need, when they need it and that they have the best chances in life.

I hope it happens soon because I have been a very poor mother for six months already and it is simply is not good enough to hope that someone else is seeing to these very important matters.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Carbon Monoxide threat - reminder

It is that time of the year again when the clocks go back and once again I feel obliged to warn people about taking preventative measures to make sure you dont get poisoned by carbon monoxide poisoning when you start heating your home again.

Most people believe that carbon monoxide poisoning is only caused by faulty gas fires or boilers, and indeed they are often at fault. But any kind of fossil fuel that burns can cause this terrible poison if it does not have a clear and open passage to the open air. Now that people are firing up their boilers, turning on their gas fires and lighting the first open fire of winter, they need to be absolutely sure that they have followed all the safety guidelines.

You must have your chimney swept at least once a year before you light up that fire. If you live in a smokeless zone and the fuel you are burning does not give off smoke, you will have no idea what danger you might be in.Unfortunately carbon monoxide cannot be seen, tasted or smelt, it is a totally invisible deadly gas. The symptoms are not dissimilar to flu; however vital clues may lie in a sense of disorientation and dizziness as well as sickness. If you or someone close to you is becoming sick and confused then it is probably a very good idea to turn off the fire, open the windows, leave the house and have a GP check you out.

Sadly of course many people cuddle up on the sofa with a blanket when they feel ill. You couldn't do a worse thing with carbon monoxide. Be safe this winter, dont light the fire or turn on the boiler until you have had an annual check.

I have a monitor at home, it is plugged into the mains and does a check of the air quality every so many seconds. Having lost my fiance to this poisonous gas in 1999 I could not rest without this reassurance, get one, they are not expensive and they might just save your life.

A week in the life of a councillor....

It's been a really busy week and I thought it would be useful for local residents as well as for people interested in being a councillor, to see what sorts of things I have been getting up to.

On Monday, after work, I went to my Heritage Scrutiny Panel meeting, where I am the only Labour member. We are currently looking at the programme of events for next year when Liverpool will celebrate its 800th birthday. In particular this week we looked at the creation of a new musuem dedicated to slavery (past and present) and how we would celebrate the 200th anniversary next year of the abolition of slavery. We also looked at plans for another new musuem, which is about Liverpool's 800 years of history.

I had to get my skates on to be at the GEARS residents association meeting for 6pm. Wendy Simon came with me, she is going to be the Labour candidate in next May's election in the ward and has already started campaigning and picking up casework for local people. Residents talked about a special event to unveil the new mosaic heritage bench in Birchfield Park in early December. There was also good news from the youth branch of the residents association - EAGERS, who have secured funding for a whole host of days out for young people in the area.

At 7.45pm Wendy and I went to meet the local Sergeant and talk to him about some particular hotspots for Anti Social Behaviour and he promised to put some special efforts into those areas. I dont want to say too much about that at the moment in case it scuppers the plans.

On Tuesday I spent the morning at the Planning Committee, it was my first time attending as an objector and I got up on behalf of local residents and made a short speech objecting to plans to turn 1-3 Beech Street into a B&B. It is an attractive grade II listed building that used to be a care home. It has now closed and the owners want to attract what they call "tradespeople" to work there. I pointed out that in my experience workmen travel about in vans, and there were 30 bedrooms envisaged for this place, but only 8 car parking spaces. We cannot have large amounts of vans parking up and down Beech Street, right next to our new flagship neighbourhood centre.

I spent the afternoon at a special Health and Adult Care select committee where we were fighting to save an old people's home from closure. Venmore care home has had £2.8million spent on it in the last 8 years, it is a lovely facility where the residents are very happy and the staff care well for them. The council want to close it down because essentially there are better things they would like to do with the site and because the money they would save would plug a gap in their domicillary care budget (looking after people staying in their own homes). Several people spoke who will be affected by any closure, including one old chap who was crying as he explained how happy he was living there and how devastated he would be to leave. I seconded an amendment to reconsider the closure consultation plans, but the LibDems voted en masse to press on.

On Wednesday I went to the Neighbourhood Services Task Group which is part of the accountable process for the management of the Kensington New Deal for Communities. It is multi-agency with lots of residents representatives and we talked about various issues around the area. I find it a very good forum for examining local priorities - cleaning up certain streets for instance. We are going to have a Christmas Party on 20th December where we dont have to talk about rat baiting for once, I am really looking forward to it already.

This was followed by a Labour Party branch meeting where we selected our local government candidates for the last three remaining wards in Liverpool Wavertree. I think we have done well, all our candidates are strong and credible and will give the LibDems a run for their money even if some fights will be more challenging than others.

Yesterday I had the night off from my council work (although I had spent a couple of hours in the morning doing casework at home while I was waiting for the man to come from Telewest and install my new phone, cable TV and broadband....)

Today I will use my special leave to visit the National Children's Home Regional Director for the North West to talk about what they do for children in Liverpool. Then I have my weekly surgery at 5.30pm, followed by our Constituency Labour Party meeting at 7.30 where we are going to talk about building strong communities as our contribution to the national policy debate and then at about 9.30pm Wendy and I are popping along to an Irish Night to help raise funds for Fairfield Area Residents Association and their bid to create a community garden at St Sebastians.

I am hoping to spend the weekend doing things for myself...!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Top Tory blogger Iain Dale's top 100 Labour bloggers

A bit of a strange concept really - a Tory having a list of top 100 Labour bloggers, but there you go, he has got one.

If you click on the title of this piece it will take you to his site where you can download the PDF with the full list and have a look at lots of other Labour blogs, do come back though!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Needham Triangle anti-social behaviour problems

I am really worried about the kids up to mischief in Needham Triangle in Kensington

On Saturday several climbed on to the very top of the roof ridge of a house on Needham Road, hugging the chimney stack and waving to their pals down below. One little boy slipped and fell right down the roof, only being saved from going over the edge by one of his pals who managed to grab him.

They have been throwing stones to break windows of empty houses for sale on Chiswell Street, clambering into backyards of boarded up houses on nearby Adderley and setting fires and running along the tops of alley walls.

Obviously it is making local people angry but it is also frightening to think about how close they are to hurting themselves in these dangerous games.

One practical solution that has been suggested to me is that we could consider installing some special rollers which fit onto the tops of the alley walls and so prevent you climbing on to them. I suppose they were designed as a further step to combat burglaries, always assuming they had already managed to get over the alleygate. But there is no reason why they could not be used to stop children from going where they shouldn't.

I put it to Council officers at a meeting yesterday, they seemed interested in the idea, it is a question of money as with everything else but they promised to look into it.

Watch this space.

Cracking down on prostitution in Kensington and Fairfield

I have just found this entry on the Mersey Police website showing some of the hard work we are doing together, as part of Operation Rose, to stop prostitution in Kensington and in Fairfield.
I am quoted at the end of the article praising the police for tackling the priorities of local people.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Amazing Mrs Pritchard

This is a wonderful programme that I can definitely recommend.

There are some miserable sods out there who have criticised it for being too far-fetched, that is something we can debate because I can see how it might happen, given the public's penchant for falling in and out of love with celebrities.

However, far-fetched or not, it is funny, interesting, clever, full of women politicians which is a very refreshing change and I love it.

I particularly love the presence of "real" newsreaders, journalists and presenters so that Mrs Pritchard appears on Newsnight or the Today programme for instance, being interviewed by Kirsty and John.

It is great fun.

If you have not seen it, can I please recommend it to you, if you dont know what it is about, let me quickly summarise.

Roz Pritchard, a supermarket manager decides, at the last minute, to stand as an Independent candidate in her local constituency in the General Election, following her witnessing fisticuffs between the white middle-aged male candidates from Labour and Conservative parties. She wants to stand as a candidate who will always tell the truth and be trustworthy and offer something new and fresh to people who have stopped engaging with politics.

Within 24 hours other like-minded women have asked to stand with her, in their own constituencies, and the supermarket owner offers her £10million for a national campaign because she is so impressed with Roz.

By the time of the election itself, the huge media interest in Roz has helped create a situation where a female candidate is standing in more or less every constituency in the country, under the banner of the Purple Alliance (purple being a blend of red and blue). Several key Labour and Tory MPs and candidates have also defected to her.

And on polling day there is a huge turnout amongst the disaffected and Roz is elected as the Prime Minister.

Subsequent episodes have described her progress and some of the challenges she has had to face.

And now she wants to move Parliament to Bradford, to be closer to the people.

Imagine, a common sense party full of good strong women who want to put people first, to tell the truth and do their best.....I would vote for that myself, I might even join them!

Do have a look at their website - click on the title of the link, you can vote on the Bradford question this week.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Labour Party conference in Manchester

Conference in Manchester was really great.

Definitely the best venue of the four I have been to - the others being Blackpool, Brighton and Bournemouth. There are several reasons for that; It is all on the flat, aside from a few steps up to the GMEX building, this makes a considerable difference when you are on your feet all day every day for a week! It is architecturally very pleasing within the secure area, attractive hotels (the Radisson and the Midland), the GMEX building itself, the skyline - I had a view from my hotel bedroom of the town hall clock. There is lots of space within the GMEX so that we could have the exhibition space within the conference venue itself, which is particularly helpful and should make it much easier to persuade potential exhibitors to rent some space.

I wont go into lots of detail about the NEC meetings and what went on, Ann Black gives a pretty good account to anyone who wants to know chapter and verse so it is silly for me to repeat it all here.

So I will give you the gossip and the low-down instead.

I spent quite a bit of time having to organise a prayer room for our Muslim delegates, it being Ramadan and there being a tight timetable of prayers. We had agreed to provide one but the Ts had not been crossed, nor the Is dotted, so it was not ready. The GMEX staff were incredibly helpful in finding somewhere and the delegates who had approached me for help were pleased with the facility. The only slight problem was that the room contained paintings of the Queen and Prince Phillip which had to come down off the wall because you cannot have images of people in a prayer room, but I thought they would have put anybody off their stroke in any case. I thought all that kind of thing, Windsor worship, went out with the ark but obviously not.

I spent quite a lot of time on International issues this conference, I was personally invited to meet the High Commissioner of Pakistan who was a fabulously dressed woman who spoke very well when she addressed the meeting. Someone said later that in Europe she is considered to be the best High Commissioner there is, from any country. I was extremely impressed. She talked about the relief efforts following the earthquake and also about the close relationship between our two countries, it was fascinating. Someone took a photo of us together, but I have not seen it yet.

Along with a few other NEC members I also met outside of the conference with a group of men from Kashmir, from different political backgrounds, who are trying to secure independence for their country. Labour has long since promised to help but they felt that it was all taking too long. I suggested that they consider setting up a Labour Friends of Kashmir group, which I would join, where we could push for this. I know that the Bradford MPs have been particularly supportive of this issue for a long time and there is a large APPG in Westminster too. There were dozens of photos taken on this occasion too but I dont have copies of them either!

I also went to the Labour Friends of Israel reception where my MP, Jane Kennedy is the chair. Tony Blair addressed the meeting and pledged to spend the remainder of his term in office striving towards a two state solution, for Palestine and Israel. It was rather moving and somewhat emotional really, I think it was the same day as the Leader's speech and we knew it would be the last time he would be there, at conference and at the reception. I think lots of people came into to hear him speak one last time who were not themselves interested particularly in Israel. Love him or hate him, there is always something stirring about endings.

I spent quite a lot of time with my Liverpool comrades, in particular one of our young agents, Daniel Hughes who I tried to introduce to lots of campaigners so that they could share ideas. I got Judy Richard's name wrong (from the SouthWest) when I introduced her, I dredged up Susan from somewhere, but I dont know if she noticed, apologies if you did and you are reading this! I was also thrilled to see Sheffield Councillors, Gill and Harry again and we spent some happy hours together in various events. I always love seeing Suzanne and we managed to get a few hours together here and there as I did with my old friend Gina and her team on the CFL stand.

Conference is as much about the Labour family meeting together en masse as it is about policy making, it is the place where you feel warm and inspired and where you just know you are in the right party.

I chaired two sessions which was wonderful.

The first session was Trade and Industry (it was probably called something else but that was the general idea), where I started off a bit nervous but soon settled in to my comfy leather swivel chair and got used to the idea that my face was being displayed behind me on a screen fifteen feet wide! There is something rather fun about sitting up there on the platform and being in charge, choosing speakers, taking votes. I dont think there is much power involved but you do quite fancy yourself while you are sitting there. I tried to call up to speak a balanced section of people, concentrating on making sure I had the gender balance right, that black contributors were chosen, that young people were chosen. Ironically it was the white middle aged men who missed out a bit, for a change.

The second session on the Thursday morning was Crime and Justice and I introduced John Reid, the Home Secretary to conference. I also took 9 votes, including a card vote and was cheered for announcing that a controversial vote on corporate liability was carried.

The best part about chairing though came afterwards when people stopped me in the bar to thank me for calling them to speak or commented on my dry manner or calmness in adversity.

I shall miss all that high profile stuff now that I am not on the NEC any more, but it was great fun while it lasted. (I know you are not supposed to admit to that sort of thing, but who cares.) I was delighted that my colleagues gave me the honour of chairing conference as their parting gift (they also gave me a nice certificate which Tony presented to me, there were photos taken of that too, but as with all the others, I dont have any!)

I closed my final session by thanking conference for their support, and saying that I was going back to Liverpool to help the fight to take the city back for Labour. There were big cheers for that as you can imagine.

And I meant it, look out LibDems, we are coming after you, our people deserve better.


This is probably one for my mate Tim Swift

How do I sort my blog out so that only the first paragraph/number of words is shown and people have to click on the thread to read more?

Otherwise, I go off on a long tangent about a subject and it uses up loads of my front page.

How do I get round that?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A belated postcard from Jersey

Colin and I had a wonderful holiday in Jersey at the end of August.

I was telling my friend Claire all about it last night and she asked me whether I had mentioned it in my blog, and of course I hadn't so I shall do so now.

What you need to know is that Jersey's tourist figures are in free-fall. A few years ago a million and a half visitors were recorded, last year only half a million and this year, as late as the end of August, the Parliament was refusing to say how few people had visited in 2006.

The newspapers were full of woe and wailing and questions about why people have stopped going.

If they only paid me a modest commission I could sort it all out for them in a flash.

Jersey is a wonderful place and if no-one goes it is because no-one knows anything about it

Have you been to Cornwall? Well Jersey is similar, only smaller and much less busy of course now that no-one goes any more.

It has beautiful coast lines, possibly the best beaches I have ever stepped foot on, lovely little fishing villages, lots of interesting tourist attractions, friendly people, the same currency as us(albeit with different pictures on the notes), the same shops (although with some extra designer stores thrown in), they drive on the same side of the road, everyone speaks English and you can be there in less than an hour from most English airports (which makes it a lot nearer than Cornwall too in travelling time.)

It is abroad without being disconcerting, the street names are in both English and French so there is a sense of being overseas, as of course you will be, but also England abroad for those occasions when that is exactly what you want.

It is fabulous for those who like walking or cycling, it is family friendly and most places are easily accessible to those with physical disabilities.

What else is in Jersey's favour?

There are great buses if you want a day pass or a week's pass - we spent our first full day on the Island having a full tour so that we could identify where we might want to spend longer in the week to follow. It gave us a great itinerary.

For example we spent time in a wonderful church where the widow of Jesse Boot (founder of Boots the Chemist) had paid Lalique (the world famous French glass designer) to recreate the altar, font and side chapels in glass as a memorial to her husband.

For a short while Colin sat on a bench outside the police station in St Aubyn where apparently Bergerac, that famous Jersey policeman, operated from. (He has since bought me a video of the series where I can become very excited while recognising the background....)

Our most moving and emotional day came at the caves of the German Invasion. Thousands of prisoners of war from across Europe spent years building tunnels under the island to house various facilities the Nazis thought they might want if the islands were to be recaptured by the British. The occupation had terrible effects on the local population, to begin with the Germans thought they had the best billet in Europe, by the end they were eating seagulls to stay alive. It is very important story we all need to hear.

For at least 25 years I have ensured that my birthday is celebrated by a boat trip and this year was no exception. I have long wanted to visit Sark because I knew that there were no cars allowed and no planes could fly overhead or land. What manner of island was this?

I can tell you that on the day we visited it was first and foremost a feudal state, I doubt if there are any others now left. There was a Lord of the Manor and about 40 tenants, everyone else was a serf or a villein, in the pay of and the living of the Lord. There are three main modes of transport on Sark, bicycle, horse and trap or tractor, and that is it.

I read today in the newspaper that the island inhabitats have, by a small margin, now voted to become a democracy.

I have spent time wondering about why people dont go to Jersey, I have also surveyed my friends and neighbours about why that is, and the conclusion I have come to is this; too many people do not know what Jersey is, why you should go there or why you would want to. According to my mother it became, in the 1960s, a destination for honeymooners. And then they stopped advertising. So the only people who go there now are people who are on their 40th wedding anniversaries.

When I told people where we were going on holiday, they did not know it, or know anyone who went there, "Why are you going there?" they asked.

So I have to say that poor advertising, particularly on British TV, would appear to be the main problem.

So if I can end where I left off, Jersey is a fabulous holiday destination. It is true that most visitors seemed to be pensioners and occasionally with their grandchildren but the people in the service industries were young. There is no reason why anyone should not consider Jersey for their holidays, I am certainly convinced and at 41 I am not yet past it!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Certificate of Personnel Practice

I have just received my certificate in the post. I am now an Associate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, so there!

I am of course quite chuffed.

When I went off to college, in September last year, I was nervous really, I could not remember how long it was since I last wrote an essay or submitted a project, probably nearly 20 years. But I needn't have worried, they were a great group of people in my class (at Liverpool Community College) and we supported each other through every step.

Although the course ended in June, five of us have stayed friends and are continuing to support each other through finding new jobs, writing CVs, moving house, beginning new relationships, the dramas of football and all sort of other things.

Even at the grand old age of 41 I can recommend studying, you make new friends and you enhance your cv and your promotion prospects and best of all you feel good about yourself.

But if I were you I would try to avoid standing as a candidate and running a full campaign for a key council election during the same period, I was practically on my knees at times!

A smug woman signing off.....

Thursday, September 14, 2006

2007 - Liverpool's 800th birthday

As the only Labour Council member of the Heritage Scrutiny Panel, I have been examining the City's proposals for the celebration of its 800th birthday next year.

There are some great ideas coming forward but there are always room for more

So if you have thoughts about how we might celebrate and champion the city together then do please get in touch and I will feed those ideas through

Anti-social behaviour in Fairfield

I am enjoying working with the police, neighbourhood wardens and local Community 7 (local housing association) Officers in reducing the incidence of anti-social behaviour in Liverpool 7.

We all work so well together, meeting regularly to go over individual cases and agree action we can each take as part of a greater whole.

I am really impressed by their dedication and their understanding of the pain and misery caused to local people who have to put up with selfish, thoughtless, disruptive behaviour. They all take it extremely seriously.

I only wish the same service was available to their neighbours in Liverpool 6 who have to jump through so many more hoops to achieve the same results.

Something else for me to work on...

Kensington and Fairfield Neighbourhood Committee, September 2006

I suppose part of me is glad really that few residents turned up on Monday night.

The hysterical, inaccurate rantings by the two LibDem councillors that I am forced to serve with were disturbing and the fewer people that heard them, the better.

For instance two NHS professionals from Liverpool Primary Care Trusts turned up to talk to us about a debate into health services provided in local clinics, dentists etc (NOT hospitals)

Councillor Marbrow gave us a long rant about hospitals which was totally irrelevant and embarassed all those of us there by slagging off the GP who addressed us just because he came from Garston and somehow that did not entitle him to talk to us about Liverpool services. Go figure

Councillor Doran gave us a raft of rants, the most worrying of all was that Councillors are not responsible for and can do nothing about
1. speeding cars
2. anti-social behaviour
3. tenants of private landlords

I did point out all the options available to the Council for addressing traffic calming and traffic management through speed bumps, lighting, road design etc
I talked about the terrific work of the anti-social behaviour units based within the council
and I spoke at some length about my campaign to introduce the selective licensing of private landlords into K&F through new legislation introduced in the Labour Government's Housing Act. Sadly both chose this time to barrack and speak loudly to each other, rather than listen, nothing new there then!

There were excruciating moments when the representative of 2020 tried to explain plans for the development of Edge Lane - you didnt have to care for the scheme to give the man some room to at least explain without being subjected to personal attacks.

When we started to talk about the vitally important subject of tackling prostitution in Sheil Road, the pair subjected the police and the people who work with prostitutes to tackle their drug problems and try to rehabilitate them, to dreadful loud and systematic abuse. The police and the support workers were visibly angered by the sloppy, rude and ill-informed contributions of the two LibDem councillors

How do they expect to work with the police, with officers (staff) of the council, with agencies designed to solve societies problems, if they cannot even manage a bit of common civility in their dealings? If I was a local police officer for instance, I would not rush to work with people who addressed me publicly with such contempt.

There is a golden rule within the code of conduct for Councillors that says you should never publicly criticise officers because they are not free to respond. It is an offence which could be reported to the powers that be, the Standards Board, nationally.

These two trample all over that code, Cllr Doran at one point told officers they "would be toast" if they did not do things his way, not exactly professional is it?

How can these people expect to represent 10000 people if they alienate all those they should be working with for a common good?

They should resign, but dont hold your breath

Clare Short

I always admired Clare Short and for years I treasured a photo of the two of us together in a rose garden behind York City Labour Party office.

I did not lose faith with her when she opposed the Iraq war, or when she resigned.

But when she began her very personal attacks on the elected leader of the Party I was extremely unsettled.

Today's announcement, if it is true, that she has asked people not to vote Labour in the next election (even given that she does not know who the next leader and Prime Minister will be) is a step far too far.

I have spent years sadly expelling members who have stood against the party in local elections or advocated voting for another party. It is not something you do with any ease or happiness, but it is something you know is the right thing to do, for the Party, if for no other reason than that is the constitution we as members have signed up to and which I am pledged to support.

How can I be faithful to those actions and to our Party constitution and not condemn her now? The Labour Party is an organisation that you volunteer to join with a set of rules you agree to abide by. No-one is bigger than the Party and if you really dont agree with it you should resign. Tear your card up, send it back in an envelope with a rude note if you like, but dont expect to trash the whole system and still be welcomed.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Buying a house - not for the faint hearted

I hate them all

Estate agents of course - that goes almost without saying.

They are very happy to take their 1.5 or 2.0% of the selling price - that is at least £1900 approximately for a house worth say £125000

So you would think you would get a whole lot of customer service for your cash, right?


They dont record your calls or pass on your messages, they are rubbish!

Two months ago I was in the pub, early doors, watching the world cup on the big screen, when a young woman approached me and said hello. I didnt quite recognise her so I asked her if she worked in my dentists (my second home) or the library or the off-licence (my third and fourth homes).

She told me she was from the estate agents from whom I was trying to buy a house and went on to harangue me for daring to argue with her earlier over various purchasing related issues. It later all fell through, due in no part to her appalling customer service manners, the pub approach being only the last in a long line of crap service. Yes of course I complained to her bosses the next day.

I am fed up with surveys that cost a fortune £450 a time, which tell me nothing or are muddled up, talking about extensions that dont exist or gardens the property doesnt have.

How do these people stay in business?

When I give up public representation I am going to become an ethical estate agent - now that really WOULD be a refreshing change!

In my next life I am going to listen and act upon the interests of my buyers and my sellers and try to match them up, and you can be sure I wont be lying about known anti-social behaviour etc

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Kensington Market appeal

Copy of press release sent 3rd August 2006

Owners of Kensington Market have appealed nationally against the Council's decision to refuse permission for the use of 61 steel containers on site.

Now local people have been given until 28th August to contact the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol and stress their opposition to the market's plans.

Hundreds of local people joined Labour's campaign against the market when the original plans for the containers were proposed and Councillor Louise Baldock hopes that they will join her again in telling the Inspectorate how strongly they feel.

Comments can be made online at or in writing (but you must send 3 copies) to The Planning Inspectorate, Registry/Scanning Team, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN, quoting reference number APPZ4310/A/06/2019122/NWF.

Liverpool City Council have now told the market to remove the containers, which were put on the site without permission, saying they cause a "unsightly and cluttered appearance" and strengthen "an image of decline and neglect within the local centre."

The market owners are appealing against this too.

Labour's Louise Baldock said "I am absolutely determined to see the market knocked down, it is a terrible eyesore. This may be yet another step we have to go through, but if local people make their views known, it will take us nearer to that day."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Thanks for the messages of support

I am reminded of John Major on the night of the 1997 General Election.

He gathered his staff and his supporters round him at the foot of the stairs in number 10, and looking into the TV screen he said "Okay, well, we lost."

There were groans and moans and even cheers and laughter amongst the Tories as it sunk in.

I feel a bit like that myself after the NEC results.

Nobody likes it when they dont win a ballot, although I did get over 11000 votes and a 30% share, which isnt bad.

I stood for the NEC two years ago principally so that I could help with the campaigning and organisation and electioneering for the 2005, vital, third-term election. Ironically I only got on to the committee three weeks after it was all over. But I did make the best of the last 12 months in terms of going and talking to Labour Parties and Labour Groups all over the country about beating the LibDems, campaigning in communities, engaging more members in campaign activity and so on.

I dont imagine that will stop. Only last week I was in Rochdale talking to them about how, despite a national backlash against the Party, I beat a LibDem Councillor with 19 years service this May. We all enjoyed the session and I expect I will see them again.

It is good to know I can have my annual leave back next year - I will have taken 18 days annual leave just for NEC duties this year, not even counting time off at election time in the local ward. And I only get 25!! So I am looking forward to spending more time in my ward next year, and maybe even, dare I say it, going on holiday!

It is also very liberating to be entirely free for the first time in many years of any restrictions over what I say and when.

From 1995 - 2001 I could never speak my mind because I was staff, from 2001 - 2004 I worked as a Press Officer for various MPs who didnt need me to cut across the publicity I was supposed to be generating for them, and then I have had this period on the NEC where we do our best to keep our discussions in camera.

Ironically the only time I really said what I felt, about ex-Ministers creating new careers out of decrying the Party and the Government, it was used as a stick to beat me with.

But no matter.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am on the left of the Party, have always been on the left of the Party, was chosen to work with mainly left-wing local parties so that we would all be able to get on and concentrate on campaigning.

However, like many of the colleagues and comrades I have worked with, I dont wish to go into the national press decrying any of our policies, I will save my criticisms for branch meetings, GCs, policy forums etc, not in the pages of the newspaper or on Newsnight.

We owe it the voters of this country to stay in power for as long as possible to implement all the important changes they want to see in their lives and in their world. We wont achieve that with public spats, we will achieve it with hard-work in local communities, addressing the issues that they want sorting out and we will achieve it by winning elections.

That is the area I have put my heart into in the last 15 years of membership, and I dont see anything changing any time soon

Thanks very much for those who have sent warm comments of support, both before, during and after the NEC election.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Fighting for a free cashpoint machine

Labour Councillor Louise Baldock is calling on the Kensington community to make suggestions for the best location for a new charge-free cash dispensing machine in the area.

It has been announced today that the Royal Bank of Scotland is going to install 300 free-to-use cash machines in some of Britain's poorest locations after a report said many of those areas were becoming free ATM "deserts".

Louise said "I have been campaigning for a long time for a free-to-use cash machine in Kensington so this is great news. I am confident that if we find a good location, Royal Bank of Scotland will choose it as one of its 300. I want local people, businesses and community groups to come up with suggestions that I can propose to the bank."

Currently Kensington and Fairfield residents are typically having to pay £1.50 every time they need to withdraw money or face a trip to the city centre or Old Swan.

Although L6 and L7 are not on the list RBS have currently identified as likely sites for their machines, the scheme says it will consider applications from communities which are in the top 10% most deprived area and 1km away from the nearest free machine.

Louise holds an advice surgery every Friday evening where people can come and see her, July 28th, August 11th and 25th at 108 Prescot Road or August 4th and 18th at the Fairfield Community Centre on Sheil Road from 5.30pm - 7.00pm.

Monday, July 24, 2006

National Labour Women's Forum

The first meeting of the new National Labour Women's Forum took place on Saturday in Derby.

There must have been about a hundred women there, although I did not count them.

We were addressed by some top women politicians, Margaret Beckett our first female Foreign Secretary (and local Derby MP) updated us on the situation in the middle-East and talked too about global warming. There was a full and frank discussion on the Lebanon and all views were openly given.

I wont go into a lot of detail but Margaret did explain how Hezbolah (forgive my spelling, I don't think I have ever written it down before) were very aggressive in their unprompted interference in the Israel/Palestine troubles. She talked about a comparison with Northern Ireland and how there are always dissident groups who want to destabilise peace-talks and plans for peace. She did not defend the Israel government and explained what moves the UK was taking to help the situation, talking about the number of diplomatic missions that we were facilitating as a country, for all sides. Safely taking people in for talks on all sides and safely bringing them out again.

I cannot pretend to be an expert in foreign policy, I am all on just dealing with the local wars in my own ward, we have murderers, dealers, gangs, prostitutes and all sorts, enough to keep several peace-keepers in full-time employment, but I think most of us were reassured that as both a woman and an ethical politician she is neither blind to the pressure points nor blinkered in her views. It was one of those sessions that you wish could be shared with the entire population during a TV blackout, so that they would all have to listen.

My old boss Meg Munn MP, Deputy Minister for Women and Harriet Harman QC MP both gave useful contributions on the ongoing work to sort out things like equal pay and improved child-care and financial support for families. Several good points were made from the floor about neighbourhood childcare centres for instance, and threats over funding and the importance of recognising women's particular difficulties in those areas where they are in the minority at work, like train drivers for instance. The ASLEF representative certainly opened a few eyes!

Hazel Blears, the Chair of the Labour Party made some good general points about reaching out to communities and to women in particular in our need to become a bigger party with tentacles reaching out into every neighbourhood.

We were joined by women Councillors, MPs, MEPs, Ministers, NEC members, Union representatives, Consituency representatives, black and ethnic minorities, young women, you name it, we were all there, it was quite powerful, despite the smallish numbers.

I am sure I am forgetting both women and contributions, but I know we were all impressed with the work that our National Women's Officer, Sue, has been putting in. She has created a new women's website on the national Labour Party website, which is terrific, and she was joined by Alicia, Melanie and several women Organisers who took part in all the workshops.

The workshop I chaired was about women campaigning with and for women and we came up with both interesting and challenging organisation questions as well as solutions.

The thing that struck me the most I think during the workshops, was the general level of ignorance amongst the women about what is and what is not "allowed" within the rulebook for our organising. It is clear to me that men are still scaring women with the rule book, when in actual fact the rule book allows for women's networks and support groups outside of formal structures. One woman asked whether she had to invite all 200 women in her Constituency Labour Party to every event a women's network might hold, even if they weren't a bit interested. I told her that there was nothing in the party rule book to preclude any of us from inviting our friends to our house for coffee and cake if we wanted to, members or not, and I stand by that.

Another woman expressed surprise that she could, if she wanted to, put herself forward as a Labour Party candidate for Parliament, and that the only thing stopping her from being the next candidate was her ability to attract local support.

I do hope we can get this message out there, you can be a parliamentary candidate providing you have the necessary membership, which is either one year or two, I cant remember which. Other than that, there is nothing stopping you. You dont have to be on a list (although if you are the chosen one and not on a list, then you will have to be assessed by the NEC, but as a rule we dont chuck people out), what you need is local support, errr, that is it.

The same woman then said she did not feel confident as a public speaker so daren't be a candidate for Parliament (or the council).

I hear this all the time, we can arrange masses of training, but in actual fact most politicians dont do an awful lot of public speeches so it should not be a barrier for a bright interested woman, and neither is your age.

I am desperate for women to start thinking about why they should stand instead of why they couldn't possibly! Men don't have those doubts, they really don't.

Anyway, we had a great day, spoilt only by our having to leave in a storm.

I am happy to take forward any questions from those who weren't there

Friday, July 21, 2006

Selective licensing - not the sexiest phrase in the book but the impact is huge

I took the opportunity of my maiden speech at my first proper full council meeting to call for "selective licensing" of landlords in Kensington and Fairfield.

Did you know that the 2004 Housing Act allows for licensing of landlords in areas of low housing demand and/or high anti-social behaviour? No, neither did I.

In a nutshell, local councils have the power, should they choose to take it, to agree to licence private landlords in a given area and oblige them to think about the impact of the behaviour of their tenants in the local community.

Now if you, like me, represent a ward with high levels of ASB and little demand for housing, your ears will be pricking up about now.

Imagine it, those bad landlords who dont give a monkeys who they let their properties to, let alone what happens after the rent is paid, being made to manage their tenants. It is fantastic. I am only sorry I did not hear about it before!

Equally wonderful is the idea that said landlords should provide safety checks on their white goods, a working smoke alarm and a safe environment for their tenants.

I am going to work as hard as I can to bring this "selective licensing of landlords" to Kensington and Fairfield, local people are crying out for a move like this, how great it is that our Labour government is ahead of us in putting the law in place. Now we have to bring it here and make it happen!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Fairfield signs - update

The LibDems are at it again

You will recall several mentions of the need for new signs in the ward that say "Fairfield" rather than "Kensington" which is the next place along. I had some good publicity in the local papers too.

I laid a motion down at a full council meeting last week on this issue. Both of my co-councillors voted with me, they could hardly do otherwise really, but clearly as the rest of their group voted against me, the idea was that I would not be successful in my bid so would have nothing to celebrate with residents, but also I could not lay the blame at their door.

Their plan backfired badly because with the support of a few dissident LibDems who actually happen to live in Fairfield, the vote was passed. I was of course delighted

I was particularly pleased to learn that this was the first vote we had won in a very long time in the chamber (not allowing for the stuff that goes through on the nod).

My spies tell me that the LibDem who is due for re-election in the ward next year then went out into the corridoor behind the chamber and ranted and shouted and kicked up a proper big fuss, saying it had been mismanaged.

But guess what? The LibDems have already put a leaflet out claiming credit for new signs, they must have done it straightaway.

I am now obliged to shame them and expose them. In fact I might set up a "LibDem watch" section in all future leaflets where we keep pointing out such disgraceful actions, people need to know what they are dealing with.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Equality statement

Judging by some of the questions that are being put to me by individual members of the Labour Party who are working out how to cast their votes, my commitment to Equality and Diversity is not clear. I think this is because I have said that I am a member of the Christian Socialist Movement. For some people this would seem to equate to being intolerant and even worse, others think this means I support their fight to hold back progress.

For the avoidance of any doubt, and to prevent any homophobes from imagining that I might be a good person for them to vote for, let me put the record straight.

I am a strong supporter of the rights of gay, lesbian and transexual people. I shed a few tears when I saw the first couples joining together in civil partnership, I was so pleased for them to finally have the chance to celebrate their love for each other, although would have preferred it if they could have been offered a full marriage like their straight counterparts.

I am totally in favour of equal pension rights, equal adoption and fostering rights, equal death-bed rights, equal everything.

Incidentally, I am positive that Jesus never took sides, whatever the Church of England or the Roman Catholic church might think!

I was proud to work for Kali Mountford MP when she introduced the bill to bring about the abolition of clause 28 and for Meg Munn MP who introduced the Act to allow for civil partnerships in her capacity as Equalities Minister.

I was proud too when, as the Women's Officer for Stockton South CLP in 1995, we agreed to an all-women short-list in our constituency, by 7 votes to nil (all the principal officers of the GC).

Barbara Belcher

It is with a very heavy heart that I report the death last night of Barbara Belcher.

Barbara was a Labour Councillor in Sheffield, representing first Broomhill ward from 1996 - 2000 and then Mosborough ward from 2000-2004.

She was also a very active member of the South Yorkshire Fire Authority

She battled her illness right to the end, which is exactly how she was throughout her life, fighting injustice and standing up for people in need, whether they were in South Yorkshire, South America or South Africa.

Barbara was much loved with many friends and I am sure many will want to pay their respects so as soon as I have details of her funeral I will add them to this entry.

17th July 2006 - 2.45pm, Grenoside Crematorium, Sheffield

Friday, July 07, 2006

A busy Friday afternoon

This is a quick post for those local residents who I know read the blog from time to time.

It has been a busy afternoon.

At 12. 45 I met a few of the officers from the neighbourhood management team, Mark from Parks (that is how he described himself which I thought was great) and JB from the Friends of Newsham Park on Pythian Park.
The place is a total disgrace, the rear of the Royal Arch and other shops in that block on Kensington is covered in graffiti, including a swastika. I reported the graffiti three weeks ago but it is still there, despite promises to tackle racist graffiti fast. The place is also knee deep in bin bags, some still tied up, some set on fire. There were two burnt out cars removed this morning, just before I got there - fortunate for the officers!
I was so angry that nothing had been done and that the place still looks so terrible, despite so many of us ringing it in.
But we did agree some action and hopefully we should see a big improvement before the kids start their summer holidays and want to play there.

I then had a tour round the city centre One-Stop-Shop, always useful to see a facility that your own ward has been denied, just so you know what it is you need to campaign for. I was very impressed with the place, they have made it light, airy and pleasant with waiting times down to ten minutes. I had a go on one of the info-pods, it was good, but "could do better" on some fronts, so I promised to write up some thoughts and send them over. I think they were pleased that I had taken the initiative to get myself invited over, in my experience people appreciate members taking a bit of notice of the work they do.

I followed this by a tour round the Town Hall, it is mainly a place for holding functions, weddings, parties, except of course for the council chamber and room of remembrance. But I was interested to learn that I could arrange for my residents to take tea with the Lord Mayor, perhaps we can find a way of rewarding stalwarts of our residents assocation with a civic event like that. Or do you think that is a naff idea?

At 5pm I met the developers who are planning the highway works on Edge Lane to see their designs. I was mainly interested in the location of the pedestrian crossing near Deane Road but the digital tour along the whole road was fascinating, I have not seen models like that before. It was like a computer game.

Then I had my surgery, not many people come, I think they prefer to phone me or write, but I find it useful to catch up on my casework while I wait for them to come.

See you at the Kensington Regeneration Fun Day tomorrow!

Fairfield signage

Although technically, the engineers have already agreed to do this, I thought it worth making it official!

Council notes that Fairfield is a historic part of Liverpool, indeed there are
houses on Fairfield Crescent that were built in the 1700s.

Council further notes the recent exercise in district boundary signage.
Council believes that the placing of a sign on Prescot Road, at the Fairfield
border, reading "Kensington" instead of "Fairfield" is inappropriate and ill-judged.
Council recognises the strength of public feeling amongst Fairfield residents who
feel their neighbourhood has been overlooked and ignored.

Council therefore calls upon the Executive Member for Regeneration and
Transport to refer this matter back to the relevant neighbourhood committeewhere local people can have their say and overturn this poor decision

Graffiti "contracts" with utilities


This Council notes the agreement between Swindon Borough Council, Thames
Water and Royal Mail which has been signed. It commits both companies to
removing graffiti from their on-street property within 28 days of it being reported,
or within 24 hours if it is obscene or racist in nature. It is hoped that the charter
could be extended to include other utility companies and service providers and
cover items such as electricity sub-stations and on-street electrical cabinets.

Until recently, local authorities had no powers to remove graffiti on utility
company infrastructure, but changes to the law in April this year means that
Councils can issue a legally-enforceable removal notice on the owners.

However, the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 says that all
local authorities must try to reach voluntary service agreements with telecom
and utility companies before resorting to enforcement. A similar agreement
launched in Sheffield in 2004 now has more than 100 participants, including
national as well as local companies.

This Council requests that in light of the Clean Neighbourhoods and
Environment Act 2005 and the agreements set up between Sheffield and
Swindon Councils and utility companies for a partnership programme for graffiti
and fly poster removal from utility street furniture, that the Executive Member for
Environment and Heritage looks into Liverpool City Council entering intodiscussion with the utility companies to get a similar agreement in place

Friends of Liverpool Parks - motion to Liverpool City Council

One of the ways in which Councillors can raise issues that matter to local people is by laying down a motion to the City Council. You then have to keep your fingers crossed that you get to debate it and vote on it, maybe get it passed and make a difference.
I have put three down for this my first proper council meeting, this was the one I wanted to make my maiden speech about, but it has ended up further down the list than my other two, so I am not sure how that will work out.
Anyway, this is what it says

Council notes the many parks and public open spaces in Liverpool, as well as
the voluntary organisations that exist to promote, protect and enhance individual
parks and public open spaces, such as Friends of Newsham Park, Friends of
Sefton Park and Friends of Croxteth Park.

Council further notes the Draft Parks Strategy, which sets direction for the
management of the City's parks and public open spaces.

Council believes that these voluntary Friends of organisations carry out
invaluable work and that the City's parks as a whole would benefit from the
establishment of a Friends of Liverpool Parks group. This would bring together
the voluntary parks organisations, council officers and other stakeholders to
share best practice and promote, protect and enhance the City's parks as a
whole, to feed into the development of the City's Draft Parks Strategy and to
become an advocate for those parks and open spaces which currently do not
have a Friends of organisation.

Council therefore calls upon the Executive Member for Environment and
Heritage to bring a report to the relevant select committee dealing with the feasibility of this proposal.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Your voice at the heart of the Party

Remember - if you want me to keep working on your behalf on the NEC, you, your friends, family and everyone else you know in the Labour Party must vote for me.

July sees the biannual election for 6 ordinary party members to represent your interests on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party.

I came onto the NEC 12 months ago when Shahid Malik became the MP for Dewsbury, taking his vacant seat.

It is almost unheard of for ordinary party members to be elected to the NEC on their first attempt, I put my success down to two things;

1. my work right across the country in 14 active years of membership has brought me into contact with thousands of ordinary party members like me, many of you I count as personal friends.

2. I do not stand on a slate, I don't vote in a block, I don't go on the Today programme or in The Guardian criticising our Party or our members, I work hard in the community and respect others who do the same, in that sense I am entirely independent.

An active party member, in the General election last year, I took holidays so that I could work in key marginal seats across West Yorkshire. I had a very busy autumn conference in Brighton, delivering training in "Fighting the LibDems" and was thrilled to present the NEC general election report to the conference, making my maiden speech between Ken Livingston and Dennis Skinner - what a billing!

In February in Blackpool at the centenary conference, I chaired a session on involving women in politics with my old boss, Meg Munn MP, the Minister for Women. I delivered training in "How to get members active" As as member of the Education Policy Commission I sat in on key policy forums with party members during the debate on the Education Bill and fed in your views.

I also gave training on behalf of the North West Regional Party to St Helens and Warrington Labour Group in "Fighting the LibDems" - a favourite topic of mine as you know.

I have fought strenuously to promote our sister party, the Co-operative Party at every opportunity within the NEC, links need to be strengthened and I believe that holding our annual conference in Manchester this year, where the Co-op is very strong, will really help with that. I went to their fundraising dinner early in the year to raise funds for the City's very successful local election campaign.

I am also now a Councillor on Liverpool City Councillor, having defeated a LibDem with 19 years service. May 5th 2006 was one of the proudest days of my life. (I fully expect my next training on Fighting the LibDems to be a sell-out with standing room only!)

Being a Councillor in one of the most deprived wards in the country means I am ideally placed to see how Labour proposals will affect those who really rely on us to deliver strong policies for them.

The Labour Party will not let me have a list of the names and addresses of every LP member so representing you has its challenges! I cannot come and knock on your door on polling day, or phone you up from the phone bank, and ask you if you have voted yet.

So this blog entry has to take the place of that door-knock or phone call.

If you want me to carry on my work for you and if you want to give me the opportunity this time to serve the full two year term instead of just half of it, you must search out the ballot paper that the Party will be sending you week beginning July 3rd, fill it in and send it back - or phone your vote in.

As the posters said in the 2001 General Election, if you value it, vote for it!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tory collaboration with fascists in Hounslow -

GMB learns of former National Front activist now a member of the Executive Group in Tory council in Hounslow, west London

22 Jun 2006

GMB has learned that leading west London independent Councillor Phil Andrews is a former member of the fascist National Front has infiltrated Tory controlled Hounslow council. This raises fears that the Tories, in a multi-racial community in west Londoncouncil, have formed the first fascist-linked coalition to control a local council in Britain.

Andrews is a leading member of the Tory controlled Executive Group coalition, which holds the balance of power for Hounslow council, since last May's local elections. He is a member of the Isleworth Community Group and has responsibility for Housing and Community Safety.
The Labour Party in Hounslow has consistently refused to take part of any power sharing deals in order to win power and control.

Research provided to the GMB by Searchlight, the renowned anti-fascist campaigning organisation, has found that Cllr Andrews is a former leading light of the openly fascist and
overtly racist National Front. He was a former parliamentary candidate for the National Front, and was specifically trained as a "political soldier" with the intention of infiltrating local politics, and community groups, as described in an article in the fascist magazine Nationalism Today. Cllr Andrews will share responsibility for Housing and lead responsibility for community safety, which is surprising, as he was also given six months imprisonment in 1986 for causing actual bodily harm to a black police officer at a St Georges Day Rally.

GMB has thousands of members in Hounslow, many are of an Asian background, with the majority living in the community where they work. National Front activity, graffiti has been on the general increase for some time in Hounslow.

Mick Rix GMB National Official said "If David Cameron does not wish to be known as a political chameleon he must act today to put an end to this coalition, before his party further threatens the harmony of good race relations in Hounslow. David Cameron's rhetoric over the BNP prior to the May 2006 local elections has a very hollow ring when we find that his party in Hounslow, is in coalition with a group that has a former leading fascist, racist, Holocaust denier, and convicted thug at its head. The local Tory group has welcomed with open arms this known fascist, with a conviction, into their power sharing ranks of the local council."

(My cousin lives in Hounslow by the way, she must be horrified, LB)

So called Tory family friendly policies

(Some of this information is taken from an email from Chris Gale who I have mentioned in an earlier blog - this needs a wide audience so I am recreating it here)

David Cameron said last week, to much fanfare, that he was all in favour of family friendly policies.

Guess what? It is another example of his chameleon like qualities

For instance,

David Cameron voted against the second and third readings of the Employment Act 2002 on 27 November 2001 and 12 February 2002

He went to to say

"The suggestion for the massive extension of paternity leave owes a bit more to political correctness than the realities of life. It could be very disruptive, particularly to small business."
David Cameron, Sunday Times, January 1st 2006 (is six months ago long enough to merit a change of heart would you say?)

"The response of the new left - that government should regulate the specific details of working life - is ineffective. It produces unintended consequences that can end up damaging our competitiveness."
David Cameron, speech to Google Zeitgeist Europe 2006, 22nd May 2006

Now be fair, he did say that last month, in May, now we are in June it is entirely okay for him to totally contradict himself, right?

Fairfield signage

Two years ago, or perhaps a bit more, Liverpool City Council Highway Engineers put out proposals for new signage in the city.

The idea was that major districts would have a sign at the roadside, welcoming people into their district, just as cities, towns and villages do.

The proposals with maps and detail was put to the then 99 councillors and they agreed them.

Even while I was campaigning for election to the council, local people in Fairfield (you will recall I represent Kensington and Fairfield) were talking to me about how their area had been lumped in with neighbouring Kensington. They were angry that their district, one of the oldest in Liverpool I would imagine, given how old some of the houses are, was now disregarded.

They were angry that the junction between Old Swan and Fairfield bore a sign saying "Kensington" which is plainly inaccurate and would seem to remove them from the map.

They wanted the sign replacing with one that says "Fairfield"

I wrote to the Engineers expressing concern and several residents also wrote to the Liverpool Echo, but to no avail. I received a written response turning down our request but was undeterred.

I wrote again demanding action and was delighted to receive a reply acknowledging local concerns and a promise that the plans would be sent out again to Neighbourhood Committees for possible revision. (These are committees where neighbouring wards come together to discuss matters of mutual concern).

Obviously, as the only Labour Councillor in Kensington and Fairfield I am in a minority, but it seems to me that if the Fairfield Residents Association send representatives to the meeting and we all make our feelings clear, common sense will prevail.

I hope it comes to a meeting very soon, the next one in the series, which are held in different wards, cyclically, happens to be in my ward, so that would be a great place to have the debate!

I should say I am surprised that it has taken a Labour councillor arriving in the area to make this change, but frankly, that would be a lie.

It is another example of local LibDems taking their eye of the ball where the wishes of local people are concerned, and that is me being generous!