Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lost my stat counter

Hello clever people

I have upgraded from blogger beta to blogger

and updated my layout

and somehow in the process I have lost my stat counter

If you click on the link to this blog then you will see where I got it from.

I dont seem to have access to the page of HTML that I had before, where I could insert a stream of code which would result in the displaying of the logo and the setting up of the monitoring.

I need someone to tell me how to do that. I have asked Stat counter's help page and it talked me through a process but then talked about my looking for the blogger button in the HTML in the template and then inserting my code after it.

That blogger button reference does not exist in my template

Help please


(Was on 40 hits a day, now on none......which I know is not right)


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Liverpool condemns homeless families to up to six months stay in hostels

According to the latest reports on the Key Performance Indicators for Health and Adult Care in Liverpool, we are now running at an average of 24.6 weeks for a family to stay in a homeless hostel.

I think that is desperate

It breaks my heart

Hostels are dreadful, even the ones that are run by people with enormous compassion and care and thoughtfulness and attention to detail. It is no way to live, especially not with children.

Every week I get at least three new housing cases from families with children who are in dire housing need and who face a lengthy hostel stay without my help. And often I cannot help them, much though I wish I could.

There are about 20,000 people on the waiting list - well there was until the council wrote to them all earlier in the year and struck off everyone who did not reply. There is probably only a fraction of that number now. (I thought that was a terribly cynical act. The key thing about people on housing waiting lists is that they are in need of a home, they are often transient, living on other people's goodwill - and their sofas - they are by their very nature unlikely to still live at the address they were at when they registered to go on the housing waiting list. How very unkind to turf them off the list just because they didnt respond to a letter they probably never got).

The problem is that there is nowhere to put any of them. Thousands of houses remain boarded up or tinned up across the city while developers seem only to build apartments.

Prescot Road houses could have taken 30 families or more, had the council not told the Housing Association to empty them all and keep them empty, some four years ago, because "one day they might like to develop that stretch of the road."

Edge Lane West is a continuing shambles that shames the council in its inability to come to any resolution with opponents of the planned CPOs.

The big new development on Gilead Street has not been started, nor has the other big new development on Lomond Road.

Do you sense a pattern here?

Jane Kennedy called it social cleansing, and that was several years ago, what expression would we now use to describe the ongoing failure to build new homes or modernise existing homes in Kensington and Fairfield?

Perhapds I dont have her turn of phrase so I am fumbling for something equally descriptive and apt, but whatever you call it, one thing is for certain, it is heart-breaking and totally inexcusable.

Anti-terrorist police to help out in our elections

At the Town Hall elections briefing last week we learnt that some of the policing, on polling day in particular, will be undertaken by officers who are ordinarily engaged in anti-terrorist policing on the docks.

I asked those gathered, from all parties, to think about this before making vexatious and silly complaints about each other, trying to unsettle each other's campaigns. We shouldnt be diverting police from such important work.

I dont suppose it will make any difference though, the LibDems appear to have a tame solicitor in their pocket who writes acres of letters throughout the election period every year accusing us of all sorts, from telling lies to slander and libel and including photos of people in our leaflets whose relatives dont like it. To no effect I have to say but they do like to think it will demoralise us. What they dont realise is that we pin them all up on the wall in the campaign centre and no court case has ever ensued so I think it distracts them a lot more than it distracts us!

When you have the scent of victory in your nostrils nothing gets you down

Mind you, Cllr Radford says he has had his car fire-bombed and suspects a political opponent - no names no pack drill. Perhaps we do need thoser anti-terrorist police after all?

Imitation is flattery at the Neighbourhood Committee

They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, so I should be delighted that my campaigns are so good that the LibDems are now pinching them so often.

Twice on Monday I had to raise a wry smile when I saw Councillor Invisible and his mate at it again.

My petition on traffic calming in Butler Crescent made it through the Neighbourhood Committee, which was a miracle considering one of my opponent LibDem Councillors voted against it in Town Hall recently and the other had left before we got to that point on the agenda.

Anyway, I have been trying to get something done to slow down speeding cars on this dangerous bend for about 7 months and now apparently Cllr Doran has had a damascene moment (funny how that keeps happening as polling day approaches) and has gone to the trouble of writing to officers about it. I expect it will feature in a future FibDem leaflet, but the people of Butler Crescent are in no doubt as to which party is really supporting them on this one.

Then we came to the planning items and Cllr Marbrow told the committee that he hoped the new neighbourhood centre would encompass a free cash point machine.

Funny that, I told the planning people the self same thing four weeks ago and an edited version of my comments to them appear on this blog dated a whole month ago.

It is great really, now I know how to get things done for local people - make sure the LibDems pick up on my campaigns and sit back and wait for them to promote them!

The problem the LibDems face is that they dont go to residents' meetings and dont engage with the community so they dont know what people want. Whereas Wendy and I rarely if ever miss any of them at all!

Support for new Councillors

I have been quite critical of the service provided to new councillors in Liverpool within this blog, so it will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that I jumped at the chance to discuss some changes in the induction process for this coming year.

I met with the head of Committee Services and one of his colleagues to look at some of the improvements I would like to see for councillors newly elected this coming May - Labour ones in the main I hope.

I started with "Declaration of Acceptance of Public Office" which is where new Councillors sign to confirm willingness to serve and to abide by all the various rules and codes. Readers will recall how disappointed I was when there was no pomp attached to this important and significant moment. This will be rectified in future as Committee Services have agreed that it will be turned into a proper ceremony with witnesses and a photographer and a bit of a fuss. I am really pleased.

Then I moved on to the importance of casework and being able to hit the ground running in tackling cases straight away. We talked about the ongoing need for the council to buy a proper casework IT system and also that new members would benefit from some training in actually doing casework, tracking it and chasing it up and so on.

In a similar mode I explained to them how new Councillors need to be furnished with lots of contact details for all the council officers and other agencies that work in their area. So that if for instance you have a housing query, you know who to approach.

For members like me where I am the only Councillor from my party in my ward, there is no-one to ask about who the local police contacts are or which residents groups are operating etc so you spend a lot of time finding all these things out for yourself. This networking and discovery is very useful and a good skill to have but wastes a lot of time when you could have been pushing people's priorities forward so much more quickly.

They are going to look at creating a list for each ward so that when a new member is elected they can have all this information at their finger tips.

I talked about the council organising tours round the key buildings - Town Hall, Municipal Buildings, Central One-Stop-Shop, Liverpool Direct call centre and so on. It is useful not just as familiarisation but because if you have been to these places on a tour you can feel much more comfortable and confident about where you are going when you are officially called upon to go there.

On the IT front, which I have been scathing about, I did request that they get some spare laptops set up so that new members could be given them straight away instead of having to wait for the retiring councillor to hand them back in.

That surprised you didn't it.

You thought that for £2k a year per member, the IT contract with LDL must at the very least amount to a new laptop for each councillor, not a bit of it.

They are second hand, at best.

Our conversation ranged far and wide and if they take notice of all that I asked for then new Councillors this year should have a much better experience than I did, that makes me feel really good. I look forward to Wendy telling me all about as she goes through her induction!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Venture Housing in Boaler Street, Kensington

I had a terrific meeting with Peter Rogers at Venture Housing.

I hadnt been since they moved into their new building on Boaler Street, it is a great big shiny edifice of an office with long-ranging views across the north of the city, lots of space, community space, room for public meetings, a wonderful resource. Their building it on a run down residential street in down-town Kensington demonstrates a real sign of commitment to the area and its people.

We talked about lots of things that I wont put in here because it wouldnt be appropriate but I came away certain that together Venture and Labour can start to make a real difference to people's lives.

We were speaking the same language; regeneration, social enterprise, affordable housing, partnership working

It put a big smile on my face for the rest of the day.

So much more on this in the future

Green, Environment and Heritage Select Committee

A difficult meeting really

There was no politician available for us to question, the officers present had to gamely try to handle all our questions and comments, many of which were political and so not possible for them to answer really. Neither the Exec member nor her Deputy were present (I am sure for perfectly valid reasons, this is not a personal attack) and I hadn't experienced this before so asked if it was a rare occurrence, it is apparently. I asked that in future someone at least should be found to sit and field some of the stuff the council staff cannot be expected to deal with. I think this will be taken on board for the future. No-one disagreed with me.

We were I think all deeply disappointed too to learn that Fair Trade is not a real concern of this council, it having no dedicated staff or budget. I will be saying something publicly about this because as a co-operator I am appalled that the city can lay credit to being a Fair Trade city when it does nothing itself (okay so we drink fair trade coffee in council meetings, big deal!). No money, no staff, a rubbish website and it sounded as though the staff who I think work in procurement, were raiding the petty cash to find the money to put the Fairtrade fortnight event on with the Lamb-banana.

It is a disgrace, they should be ashamed of themselves

I shall be asking the council to be fair to Fair Trade in future.

We had an interesting presentation of a report on the rollout of the new kerbside collection of the recycling scheme but it all only serves to illustrate why the city is so far behind everyone else. I can remember talking to officials in Kirklees about how they were going to finally roll-out their recyling kerbside collections to the rural areas, having long since done everyone else, and that must have been in 2003 I think. That is four years Liverpool has lost on everyone else, at the very least. No wonder we are last in the league.

I dont know how long Cllr Turner has been the Exec member for this portfolio so dont know whether it is her fault or whether it was one of her colleagues before a reshuffle who managed not to move any progress at all on recycling. I hope whoever it is or was doesnt get any other important jobs to mess up.

I am pleased that steps are being taken at last to move us forward but they are still not bold enough for me. We need to be radical now or face huge rises in council tax bills as the cost of taking rubbish to landfill soars. The report that was presented recommended alternate weekly collections which Nick Small has been promoting for a long time, but I dont know how far we will get as Cllr Turner has already said "Not on my watch" at a recent committee meeting.

I asked about rolling out recycling in the terraces with narrow entries, which is about half of my ward, I asked last month too, but there is no answer to that yet.

I also asked the officers what steps they were taking to protect Lewis's and in particular the statue, as an iconic feature of the city and its heritage. We were told that there is no listing and it is not in a conservation area so the council has applied for a "spot listing", I think that was the phrase, that was good news and I appreciate it.

I also asked the committee to write to the campaign committee who had successfully fought to keep the Woolton Cinema open, another vital part of our city's heritage.

Much of the content of the meeting was disappointing but at least we were more or less all in agreement about it, so there is hope.

Parks scrutiny panel - second meeting

We had the second meeting of the Parks scrutiny panel in Calderstones Park.

I was very keen when drawing up the work programme that we should get out into the parks themselves not debate parks from a city centre office block. This was our first foray out into the green lung and it went very well.

We had half an hour to wonder and wander round the park, we talked about the need for a new glasshouse, more of which in the future I am sure. We looked at the English walled garden and the Japanese walled garden and examined plans for a new path near the exhibition coach house centre.

Several of our party told me that it had been twenty or thirty years since they were last in this particular park, so it was all the more valuable.

The magnolias by the way were magnificent!

We scrutinised the partnership arrangments with Glendale who have taken over full responsibility for the actual physical parks work, the planting, tending, pruning and cutting. There were lots of questions, many from me, I am so enthused about this wonderful opportunity and probably run on a bit too much at times. I asked about the apprentice schemes they have in place with an NVQ in Horticulture at stake, apparently they need to train young people to take the place of the soon to retire gardeners currently on the staff. I was pleased that they are taking some of their apprentices from the unemployed in deprived areas via various organisations and schemes.

We asked lots of questions about the closed circle recycling scheme whereby the green waste, grass cuttings, tree prunings etc are taken away, recycled using special machinery and turned back into suitable products that can be used again in the parks, compost and that kind of thing. I suggested we ask the Select committee to arrange a visit there in due course. It will be a cross-cutting exercise that would be very useful.

I was pleased that my suggestion to Paul Scragg that we have a flower bed display to celebrate the 800th birthday in St John's has been taken on board by Glendale, they were happy to confirm that this would go ahead and are currently identifying suitable plants to make the design which will be the official 800th birthday logo picked out in our corporate purple with white. I cannot wait to see it.

We also explored where other cities were in terms of inhouse gardening and maintenance or tendered out services, apparently Liverpool has gone much further than other cities in terms of outsourcing through this partnership. It has only been in existence a very short time, perhaps by the time the scrutiny comes to an end and we have visited lots more parks and heard lots more evidence I will be clearer as to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. But it certainly seemed very positive if you took everything at face value.

I look forward to our next meeting in Belle Vale park

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Liverpool Riverside Labour Party dinner

Part two of the relentless rounds of potential Deputy Leaders visits to Liverpool

- or is that part three, I lose track really

A few months ago it was Alan Johnson speaking at a dinner in the Devonshire House Hotel, last week was the turn of Peter Hain.

Wendy and I sat with the more youthful end of the LP (present company excepted of course) and enjoyed our dinner. We managed not to win anything on the raffle or bid for anything at the auction (who wants to bid for a load of football memorabilia, signed shirts and balls anyway? what about lots for women to bid for?) but did have a good time nonetheless.

There was quite a funny moment when the chaps (I think they were all chaps) were bidding for the chance to have dinner on the Terrace in Westminster with Louise Ellman MP. The bidding started off quite sensibly but was in the £200 or £300 ball park when I sloped off to have a cigarette outside. I couldnt help but speculate that she might end up having to declare this or face charges of cash for access and brown envelopes etc. Not quite what anyone had in mind!

We were all on a big high after the Speke result - there was lots of cheering every time it was mentioned and it was mentioned a lot!

Peter was interesting, Roger Phillips gave him a hell of a build-up. I have known him for years in a fairly superficial way, we campaigned together in the valleys in 1997 and I remember him teaching me the Neath Rugby chant, but many people were hearing him for the first time.

Of course he talked a lot about Northern Ireland, being the Secretary of State and it being the day when the election results were announced for a new Northern Ireland Assembly. He also paid tribute to Mo Mowlam which was only right and proper. There was much agreement around our table that settling the Troubles is probably one of the greatest achievements of this Government and yet nobody ever mentions it.

I couldn't help pondering though whether ten years ago any of us would have believed that it would be resolved finally by a joint working arrangement between Paisley and Adams. Quite, quite remarkable.

Peter cracked a few jokes which always goes down well, but would never have been able to match Alastair Campbell who tore the place up a few years ago. But all in all it was a creditable performance.

We have Hilary Benn coming soon, I feel quite privileged to be somewhere where the big players come to court us. I understand Jon Cruddas was in town this week too.

A good night with about 200 people having a great time

Special spam

I just had to share this nonsense with you. I got this email today, entitled

"Re[5]:maybe u want to learn me better"

Privet, gentleman (what a fabulous start)

It's a destiny that you have got this mail from me, it's a destiny that you are reading about me and maybe we are the two halves of one heart that was lost in the huge world? I believe in fate and I believe in beautiful love, do you? (If I did I might be starting to doubt right about now)

Do you feel you have everything in your life? And what about Love? Do you have it now? Are you beloved? Does some woman present you all her passion, tenderness and care? (Other than my mother? Not as such no)

Does she fulfill your wishes? Do you feel needed and respected? Do you want all this? (How will I fit it in between council meetings and door-knocking, case-work and the day job?)

I am sure you do! And I am the woman who is looking for a man to give all that! (Not quite sure how I can help really) Find me here (snip) Love helps to understand the beauty of life… It is like a wind -one doesn't see it but can feel it…Waiting for your mail (Feeling your wind!)

Stazy (Louise)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A spectacular result in Speke Garston

It has taken me a bit of time to get this posted, apologies for those who have been waiting on tenterhooks!

The election result on March 8th in Speke Garston was a spectacular and magnificent triumph.

Local people turned out in their droves to elect a new Labour Councillor, Colin Strickland and bring within a finger's touch the prospect of an all-Labour ward in just 12 short months.

With a turnout of 28.76% which was very respectable for a byelection in that area, and about 5% higher than I thought it would be, the votes cast were as follows

Colin Strickland (Lab) 1,984;
Lynnie Williams (LibDem) 1,218;
Steven Greenhalgh (BNP) 281;
Cherry Fitzsimmons (Green) 68;
Brenda Coppell (Cons) 54;
Mark Bill (UKIP) 49.

This was a mirror image of the 2004 election when the LibDem majority was 760 (see below).

Carrick,Raymond (LAB) 1417
Hughes, Danny (LD) 2368
Keaveney, Paula (LD) 2313
Knight, Doreen (LAB) 1608
Nuttall, Denise (CON) 169
Roderick, Frank (LD) 2211
Strickland, Colin (LAB) 1506

I dont know what that makes the swing, I was never very good at working that out. But it must be vast. I will let a dear reader work it out and put it in the comments. (It was Danny Hughes' seat you need to consider this byelection against and you should use Doreen's vote as the top Labour polling candidate that year). Doreen Knight became the first Labour Councillor in the new ward in May last year when she beat Frank Roderick with another enormous swing.

It was good to see the Tories stuck on such a rubbish vote, the candidate probably did her chances in when she had a photo of herself with Michael Howard on her leaflet. She was pointing out he was a Liverpool FC supporter. Somehow not enough to swing the voters behind her, methinks. You will recall that David Cameron has said that they need to do well in the big cities like Liverpool and Manchester if they are to take back power in Westminster, not much chance of that on this form.

I was gutted to think that some people in the area voted for the BNP. Their leaflets were full of the usual lies about old ladies in penury dying of starvation and hypothermia while asylum seekers dine out on gold plate and are chauffeur driven. I dont suppose there are any asylum seekers in Speke Garston, but that is usually where the BNP do best, in places where a threat is imagined and never real. I dont think they did any campaigning other than a few leaflets though, nobody reported seeing them on the streets - and there were lots of people anxious to meet up with them, preferably in a dark alley. The right and far-right parties will take no succour from this election result.

A shame about the Green Party though, I would have liked them to be a bit more respectable. Someone did say something about them running a paper free campaign (although I might have dreamt that) in which case they were always going to find it difficult to do well. Perhaps they should come and talk to Nick Small about Labour's Green policies and see if they can come in with us instead?

I always knew we would win, although young Daniel kept telling me to keep it to myself as he was frightened people would not work so hard if they felt it was "in the bag". He was probably right although then again, we dont need people to have sleepness nights when it is not necessary either.

I wonder if Paula Keaveney will now consider moving to a safer council seat (if indeed there are any of those left in Liverpool). She is the PPC for the LibDems in Liverpool Garston, perhaps she could stand in Childwall ward (which is not in the Parliamentary constituency but not far away) but then there might be a lot of competition there from lots of other top LibDems anxious for a seat they could win.

All I can say is that it is good to see the boot on the other foot for a change and if I am gloating, well, I deserve it, we all do, you have to celebrate your victories as that feeling has to nourish you through all the hard times too. As long as it doesn't go on too long and stop us from maximising our opportunities in May. It has filled us all with great hope for our campaign, we could see another raft of new Labour councillors elected, many of them women, which fills me with immense pride and satisfaction.

Thanks to everyone who helped, from all over Liverpool and elsewhere in the region, we really appreciated your support. The people of Speke Garston will reap the benefits.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Woolton cinema is safe, hurrah!

Text from press release - about a week late but better late than never


A group of local businessmen have purchased the Woolton Picture House (contracts have been exchanged) with the intention of re-opening it as a cinema.

The projectionist David Parr and other staff will be kept on.

There is no news yet on how soon the cinema will re-open, but we're hoping it won't be too long. You will be able to see a glimpse of it though on this Friday's 'Lilies' drama on BBC1.

We will put all the full details on the website as soon as we are able to.

Rest assured, the money we have raised will not be going to waste. It will be donated to the Marie Curie Cancer Care Foundation here in Woolton Village. More about that on our website soon as well.

A very big thank you to everyone who supported the campaign to 'Save Woolton Cinema'. It's down to you guys showing how much the cinema means to the community that made it still a viable business proposition.

Many thanks to everyone from the Campaign Team
Sally, Glen, Lynne, Steve and Andy

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

On Police patrol

Jane Kennedy (Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree) and I have been out with the Kensington New Deal area Police team on a special "youth issues" patrol.

I wrote to the police asking if we could all go out together to look at some of the problems local people have told us about youth anti-social behaviour, particularly on a Friday night in certain hotspots.

The police agreed it was a good idea, so they brought their list of target areas and I brought mine (and they were practically identical) and we spent three or four hours one recent Friday night in the big yellow van with a team of local police, visiting all those places on patrol.

Jane had met the local Inspector and Sergeant very recently to talk about some other issues - ASBO breaches and prostitution to name but two - and the police asked if she would like to come too - she would!

Jane has been on lots of patrols before over the years, particularly when she was a Minister in Northern Ireland whereas it was my first time. We were both really looking forward to it though, experienced or not. I was hoping for a flack jacket but it wasn't to be.

They picked us up after our respective surgeries on Laurel Road and we drove into some of the hotspots I have talked about before in this blog, in leaflets and letters and at public meetings. We went into Minto Close several times during the course of the evening, the police say reports of anti-social behaviour have reduced considerably since they targetted it for extra patrol attention. We drove right out on to the Gilead Street waste ground and I got my first sight of the powerful torch that sits on the roof of the van, manipulated by the front seat passenger to shine into all the dark corners.

We drove along Holt Road and into the Cotswold/Ling/Brae area, discussing the holes in the reservoir fence which the kids have made to escape through when challenged. It had been brought to my attention by a local resident at a recent surgery but also by the police themselves at a meeting following a particular incident with a crowd as large as forty strong. As an escape route, it was obviously causing anti-social behaviour so if it has been repaired following my request then it is a great example of police, community and councillors working together. If it has not been repaired yet then I will be very disappointed, I am up that way later in the week and will have a look.

We got out of the van and walked through to Jubilee Drive, checking out the path along the side of the new school where the Clean Team are planning to flatten the hump in the ground that kids hide behind at night. Then we got back in the van which had come round to meet us and had a patrol round Kenny Fields, it was quiet so we took the chance to hear more about the ASBOs issued to 11 youths on the estate and how effective that was proving.

As we drove past Phythian Park the lamp showed lads running away in the dark across the park. Most of the team jumped out and ran after the lads, hurdling the fence, while we drove round in the van to the rear entrance of the park. Two or three lads were caught and we spent some time at the side of the park, while the police talked to them and filled in stop and search forms. This was a chance for Jane and I to see the onboard computer system in operation. One of the lads thought he might have an outstanding warrant, so they checked his details, he was okay though so they let him go, they were all guilty only of running away as far as I could see. An occupational hazard for the police I would think. They did recover some alcohol left in the park though and it went in the bag for later disposal - they usually pour it away down the drain apparently.

While the police interviewed these young men our presence was attracting the attention of local people some of whom came to their doors to see what was happening so Jane and I took the opportunity to go and chat to some of them and put their minds at rest. I picked up a bit of casework too.

As we were now on the Phythian estate we had a thorough drive round, going into every close, it has been a problem area lately and the Inspector had promised increased patrolling so it was on his list as well as mine. It was all quiet, apparently, recent episodes aside, it is one of the quietest estates in the neighbourhood ordinarily. That will be the result of the wonderful work the residents did some years ago, working with the agencies to design out crime by taking away the entries and extending gardens, extra lighting, moving access points. A great success.

We also had a slow drive round Butler Crescent, another place on both of our lists for attention. We were talking about the problems with speeding cars, usually stolen, using the place as a race-track. The police have increased patrols there in an effort to deter them but what it really needs is traffic calming and soon.

Parks were a bit of a theme, we also drove into and all round Newsham Park, Birchfield Park and Botanic Park on our patrol.

Botanic Park is not really in my ward but is part of the police's area and is a big problem with lots of kids hanging round drinking and damaging things. We went first to the entrance on Wavertree Road, there was a gang of kids sitting there quiet quietly, they didnt run away and chatted very pleasantly with the police as they filled in about 8 more stop and search forms. More about these later. We were there about fifteen minutes, the police said afterwards that they were all nice kids. We did confiscate a bottle of Lambrini and that went in the bag in the van too.

Coming along the side of the park afterwards with the van light shining on it, we saw a large group of kids scattering away from a gathering in the centre and we walked over there. There was all sorts of alcohol, mainly vodka and orange and plastic cups, also some Stella cans - the haul was getting bigger. Apparently vodka is the alcohol of choice now for most underage kids in the area. This frightens me as it is a hard spirit which will do a hell of a lot more damage to their health than the cheap sweet cider we used to drink when I was an underage drinker in parks!
We didnt catch any of the kids though.

While we were on that side of the police patrol area we stopped so that the police could do a "walk through" of a local pub in Edge Hill, they have been targetting, checking for drugs and making sure people knew they were about. When they got back in the van they told us that the young male PC who was on their team temporarily, as part of his training, had been wolf whistled and manhandled by some girls who thought he was a stripper-gram, we teased him mercilessly for the rest of the night, he did say he might have to go back at the end of his shift!

We also had a drive down Royston Street to have a look at a recently abandoned caravan (the kind you hitch on to the back of your car and take on holiday) that was full to the roof with old tyres. The police were very concerned that it was a fire hazard which could be fantastically dangerous if it was set alight, but they had had no success in persuading environmental services to take it away and it was not one of the types of vehicles they had authority to remove themselves. I promised to get on to it myself. (I did and I also let Cllr Sidorczuk know about it, as it was in his patch rather than mine and we try not to get involved in other people's wards if possible. It has now been removed.)

We had a good parade up and down Edge Lane, Kensington, Prescot Road, Wavertree High Street, all the main roads where kids hang round outside takeaways and off-licences and at bus stops. We stopped lots of times so that the police could chat to the kids and see what they were up to, I was amazed by how many they knew by name. We did take one boy home who we had already checked out earlier in the evening and who was now quite drunk on vodka. His Mum sent him straight to bed when they handed him over. He was a nice lad, doing well in school and with caring parents, hopefully he will have had a bit of a shock and will get his act together now.

I also had the chance to see the VPN in operation when a suspect car parked in a strange place was checked out, but it was fine, it belonged to a local shopkeeper.

A few things stood out as we reflected on the evening.

Firstly was the inordinate amount of time the police had to spend filling in stop and search forms, or whatever they are called. You have to ask not just for personal details but itemise every item of clothing someone is wearing, their ethnic background, all sorts of things and it is a long thin form which is unsupported so it flops about and there is nothing to rest on. The text is tiny and most of the writing has to be done in the dark. Jane was concerned by this bureaucracy and vowed to bring it up with the police minister. It is clearly a hindrance to the policing work as they have to spend time standing round filling them in even when it is clear that the people they have stopped are innocent of any wrongdoing. This stops them getting back out on the street. I can see that it is important that the police are held to account over any possible racist behaviour in terms of the people they choose to stop, but not to the extent that it gets in the way of active policing by delaying them for so long so often during the shift.

I was concerned that most of the kids we saw were not doing anything wrong other than drinking under-age, actually I dont think that is a crime is it? Isn't the crime buying the stuff under age? Anyway, they were just hanging round chatting in the main part yet the police have to spend a lot of time moving them from one place to another so as to satisfy the needs of local people who are rightly intimidated by them. I wish there was a middle way though. The kids need the adults to provide them with alternative diversionary activities if they dont want them to hang round on street corners and in parks! Obviously if they are causing criminal damage as they hang about they do need to be sorted out, but some of the kids we saw were just desperately in need of somewhere where they could safely be together. Yet another plug for youth service provision please.

The only other concern I had was that for instance we spent at least half an hour at Botanic Park in one place or another but because it was dark and the van lights were off while we went about our business, the local residents would not have known we were there. What is the point if high visibility policing if it is not in fact visible? I have tasked the police team with thinking how they can better advertise their presence so that people know they are on patrol at night and can feel reassured.

Otherwise I came away with the overall impression that the police are doing a good job following the priorities of the community, tackling anti-social behaviour, working with all the other agencies to manage youth crime down and that the kids are mainly decent but bored.

There were no emergencies, we finished the shift at 11pm so probably the big stuff happens later than that. I did ask what would have happened if we had been alerted to a serious crime occuring, the answer was that if no other patrols were available or near enough, we would have been let off at the side of the street and the police would have taken off to deal with it.

We had a great evening, very interesting, we all learnt a lot and I would include the police in that, real partnership working in action.

Thanks for having us (and when can I do it again?)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A busy Sunday

I spent the morning in Warrington, with my regional Labour Party hat on, chairing regional panels who were interviewing prospective parliamentary candidates to determine whether they would be suitable to be accepted on to the approved list of candidates for future General Elections.

Some very strong candidates, it does fill you with optimism for the future I must say.

Then in the afternoon I came home via Speke where I put in some time addressing envelopes and doing other mundane admin tasks, it was too wet to get out and do any more door-knocking. I was pleased to see that young Daniel has come out of his sick bed, we were all worried about him.

Maria Eagle was rushing off to Belfast, weather permitting.

I got home after having Sunday tea with Colin and pushed on with the reorganisation of my home office and setting up my computer so that I can have proper access to the Liverpool council email and website from home. Doing it in the sitting room is not what I wanted but I understand about the problems of wireless broadband and having strangers get on to the intranet from the environs of my house. I hope technology catches up with the reality of life soon so that I can get online from upstairs in the specially prepared room which is currently defunct...

Anyway, the boxes are out of the way and the connections seem to just about reach from one plug to another, if I dont mind cables running all round the room. Fingers crossed!

Daniel Kitson in C90

I really enjoy seeing Daniel Kitson, whether it is a stand-up or in this case, a special play he had written with the most amazing props.

He did three nights in the Everyman this week.

The play was essentially about honouring people for the public service they have given, in this case a lollipop lady, a school teacher and a library assistant, through the medium of giving them a gift of a tape of music on their last day in their post. That doesnt sound very funny, and I am not sure it was necessarily meant to be funny, although it was of course funny in parts. But it was as much moving as it was belly-laughs. I dont want to spoil it for anyone else so I wont go into detail but it was very thought-provoking.

Perhaps there is a story within the story about something that has happened to someone close to Mr Kitson that we will never know. I hope it is a warm story, the play was very warm.

I know that he is a native of the environs of Huddersfield and having lived there myself for 6 years, it was inevitable that I set the play in my mind in Meltham as it seemed to make such a lot of sense that way.

The prop was a full sized library shelving with a ladder on runners that enabled him to move up and down this wall of tapes, it was tremendous and I have heard that he told his first audience that creating it took longer than writing or learning the script. Amazing.

After the performance he gave a further more traditional stand-up at the Royal Court which I understand was very popular too.

A man well worth spending some serious money to see

John Hamilton's memorial service

We had a memorial service for John Hamilton on Friday night in the recently refurbished small concert room in St George's Hall.

What a wonderful room, what a wonderful venue for such a special service.

The Lord Mayor's office arranged the service with full support from the Leaders of both main parties. It was very moving. I want to add my thanks to her and her staff for their work.

John Hamilton was a very long serving councillor in Liverpool, like his father before him, highly esteemed, a man of deep convinctions and great intellect, very well read, and the friend of many people in high places, again like his father before him. He was the leader of Liverpool City Council at a very difficult time which in some circles has meant that he has not always had the credit he deserved. But I sense some of that is changing now.

Contributions came from the Lord Mayor, from Cllr Joe Anderson, today's leader of the Liverpool Labour Group, from the Rector of Liverpool, from Rt Hon Jane Kennedy MP, from the Duncan Society, from the Quakers and from Larry Nield at the Liverpool Daily Post who interviewed him just before he died in the Christopher Grange nursing home. We also heard an aria which moved some to tears, I am sorry to say I did not write down the name of the lady concerned, but she was very good and I am sure must be well known by people who know about these things.

He lived all his life in Channel Road in Kensington. He was a humble servant of the people who only ever travelled by bus, not for him the trappings of public office. He was badly served by some of his Labour Councillor colleagues in the 1980s but he himself acted only and ever from the very best of intentions. He had many interests but the education and housing of the under priveliged and the working classes were high on his agenda, as was his Quaker beliefs in peace and living together in harmony.

I met him when he was already an old man but I met him because he was our LP treasurer and because he still came to all the meetings. His contributions were always thoughtful and we all admired him tremendously.

The people of Channel Road were out in force at the service, he was very well loved.

For my part I remember him most at our monthly meetings and as a regular visitor to the campaign centre during the two elections I worked with him where he loved to come in and take the temperature of the campaign and listen to the gossip and the stories about which issues were playing in which streets, particularly in his own Kensington.

He had a place on the international stage for the peace movement , in the socialist education movement, in the decent housing movement, right up until the very end.

I was lucky to have known John and I have found myself thinking about him a lot in recent months. Sometimes you meet people at the beginning of their careers and involvement and you can tell they are going to be someone special in the future, sometimes you meet people in the middle of their time when they are major players on life's stage. Sometimes you meet people, who having achieved so much are the wise elders that you turn to for advice and who can teach you so much.

I didn't really expect to feel as sad as I do, or to feel the loss that I feel, or for as long. We were just building our relationship when it was suddenly too late. I wish I had met him earlier, there was far too much he never got to tell me. He gave me a gift when I was elected in May which I will always treasure, I imagined us taking tea together and talking about how I might best represent him and his neighbours, getting lots of tips and ideas and exploring the nature of democracy and service. But then he was almost immediately snatched away, first into the hospital and then the nursing home and then into heaven, and those discussions never really got going.

That is the thing I regret the most, that our time never really came, that I met him too late.

The best any of us can do now to honour John is to try our best to do as he would have done.

Water Company in my bad books

I think it was the end of January when the Water company who service my neighbourhood streets first turned off the supply. I dont know what they are doing, but it involves digging up every street in several places. Probably they are replacing the pipes, in which case I am pleased, but cannot help thinking that it is going on for an inordinate amount of time.

It is a more or less daily occurence, does that make it five weeks or six?

They cut the supply off at 8am each morning, you have to get up before then, get a shower, fill the kettle, do the washing up, all that, before 8am. Then the supply might not come back on until 6pm.

I cannot even start to imagine how the private nursery round the corner has managed to keep up its provision through this period. How can you look after babies and little children without hot and cold running water? I hope they will be demanding a rebate.

I took very precious flexi time from work on Friday so that the Gas company who service my boiler could come and do their annual work.

Sadly, because of the stoppages to the water supply they could not act and we have had to make a further appointment. What I will do if things are not resolved by then, I dont know.

I have kept all the dozens of cards that have come through the door letting us know that there will once again be no water all day.

It is enough to make you want to complain to your councillor. I hope Cllr Bradley will be able to fit me in at one of his surgeries if this does not get sorted out soon.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Recycle your books with Green Metropolis

This might be of some interest given that it is World Book Day today - click the title of this blog for detail on recycling books .

My favourite book is Down Under by Bill Bryson

I rarely laugh out loud when reading but this one made me laugh until tears fell down my cheek