Sunday, April 29, 2007

Labour Party Deputy Leadership Campaign - Louise declares her support for Hazel

I had a letter today from a supporter of Alan Johnson for the Deputy Leader. I have also had emails from Hilary Benn, Peter Hain and Jon Cruddas in the last week or so. Only Harriet Harman has failed to be in touch.

They all tell me that they are hard at work on the stump and understand that I might be busy campaigning too.

You betcha

Unfortunately, given that TB is likely to declare his resignation in the next fortnight, and with him John Prescott, the campaign for the Deputy Leadership has presumably had to kick off despite the distractions.

Lots of party members I know will not be checking their emails until Friday, being far too busy for such fripperies. For me, I only get by through posting in the middle of the night, sheesh.
So we wont hear their calls for support until we have heard the results of this year's local elections.

However, timetables and planning dictate that we do have to give some thought to this subject, however distracting it may be, so I am going to allow myself a bit of time to address this.

Hilary, Peter and Alan have all spoken at Labour Party dinners in Liverpool in the last six months and I understand Jon Cruddas came to do a public meeting (although I did not go). Hilary also took some time out to meet some local party members who have come from Africa and wanted to talk about the situation in their home countries, which was very much appreciated.

So we in Liverpool are being properly feted.

Hazel Blears came out campaigning with our members in Liverpool about three weeks ago (you lose all track of time during an election don't you. I sometimes have to stop in the middle of a campaign story retelling to think whether it happened today or yesterday!)

I have never had any doubt, once she finally declared her candidature, that I would be supporting her for the Deputy Leadership. In fact I was waiting and waiting for her to put herself forward and beginning to doubt it would ever happen.

Actually most of the candidates are good people and we will consider ourselves fortunate whichever we get, by and large, but there are some things about Hazel that make her special.

For one thing she is a woman and I would like to see the Labour Party embrace a woman in this post, especially as it seems there will be no women running for the leadership of the Party. I know the LP in Liverpool has made massive strides and is only a week away from being very close to parity in both its MP representation and its Labour Group of Councillors membership. However this is not the same throughout the country in the LP where women can still lag behind. We need a woman in at least one of the top two positions in the party.

For another thing she is a northerner, and that counts a lot to me, I want to deal with someone who has the same sense of place in the world as I do. Someone who understands the needs of the people who live in the north and will stand up for them. Someone who is Salford instead of Stratford, you could say.

Then of course she is a proper street-hardened campaigner, like me she loves nothing more than getting out onto the doorsteps and the markets and the school gates and talking to real people about real issues rather than being stuck in the Westminster village.

She is a long-time campaigner for things like the Respect Agenda, that we should champion ordinary working people in their fight against louts and yobs and trouble-causers (anti-social behaviour as it has become fashionable to call it).

Okay so she is not very tall and she smiles a lot, frankly I dont think that being tall or dour has all that much to offer, that we can afford to overlook someone so dynamic. And being a "smiler" myself, I just dont see why that is a problem, she is happy in her work, like me, and good luck to her for that.

She is accused of being a Blairite and on the right wing of the party. That is frankly not true. What Hazel is, is a loyal, hard-working, passionate and dedicated member of the Labour Party, just like me. She will be loyal to any leader, just like me. If you are a mad-keen football fan then you will always support your team, it wont matter who the captain is, or the manager, or where the ground is, or what colour the strip is, they will always be YOUR team, right? Hazel, like me, feels just the same about the Labour Party.

I am reminded of my old boss, Regional Director of the Labour Party, Andrew Sharp. He had served under five leaders of the Labour Party and was a loyal and passionate supporter of each. Indeed, it is our Party, always and forever and we will always wear the scarf with pride.

That doesn't mean you don't criticise or that you don't have your say in the corridoors or in the meetings, but it does mean that you are always on side because the alternative is the Tories or the LibDems, the Nationalists or any other disaster story.

When Hazel came to Liverpool, it was not to speak at a dinner, although I am sure she would do a great job, it was to knock on doors in Yew Tree and in Speke with our Labour activists. (As the attached photo will show).

She walked the streets and talked to real Liverpool residents, she might be short in stature but she is huge in confidence and passion and also detail.

I am proud to be on her side in this campaign and I call on you to join me in supporting Hazel, whether you are a woman, a northerner, a grass roots campaigner or a passionate defender of the "red" team.

Why would you want to vote for anyone else?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

More campaign stories from Liverpool

A friend of a friend has told me that Councillor Mike Storey is alleged to have told Councillor Malcolm Kennedy at a NWDA event that the three Warbreck Councillors "are not three of our best councillors". That's okay Mike, one of them is on their way out any day now. Ann O'Byrne practically had a standing ovation at a recent community policing meeting, and guess who was leading the applause? No, I wont say, but there is a clue in there somewhere (and it wasn't a LibDem).

Jim Noakes, Labour candidate in Croxteth, has had a three page letter from the Unionist supporting LibDem candidate's solicitor moaning about Jim's exposing his political past. Jim is tempted to let the situation go to court so that he can call Rev Ian Paisley as a witness.

I got a glossy leaflet from Mike Storey today, he is clearly making up for his earlier neglect from this his most ardent reader. He is still saying "It is so close here", our Tim must be getting quite excited, he didn't think he had much chance to be honest, and this time the front cover has a big photo of Colin standing in front of his LibDem colleagues and wannabes. They are all joyfully fisting the air, presumably in anticipation of his joyful return to the leadership any day now. The caption says "We're all backing Mike Storey". Make of that what you will. Interestingly, Cllr Bradley has had to strain his neck even to be seen, tucked right behind Cllr Storey as he is. You can almost see the plaintive "Hello, I'm in here too somewhere" bubble coming out of his mouth.

If I can find a scanner I am going to have to let you see this!

Who takes these pictures? Don't they have the sense they were born with? I think it is slapdash, rather than deliberate, although it is tempting to think that someone has lined the shot up that way on purpose.

I dont think much to their campaigning professionalism, they wouldnt win many awards for marketing or PR.

I am a bit disappointed too in that nice young man, Tom for peddling the twice a month myth. I don't want to say more than that though as it is a matter of public record that I was naive enough to have voted for the SDP in my first General Election. I expect the scales will fall from his eyes soon enough.

Otherwise Mike has made a reasonable job of the rest of the leaflet. Shiny and in colour and plenty of photos of him on his own, leaning on different items of street furniture, so that is okay then.

I see the One Stop Shop in Wavertree has two mentions and two photos. Richard Marbrow would have liked photos of him in front of Kensington's One Stop Shop I expect, only he decided to spend the money on the tourist information office in the city centre in the end, instead of building one, so that has turned out to be a bit of a wasted photo opportunity, darn!

We had a good day on the streets today. This morning we spent some time on CML which was very productive - more on that later. Then after lunch Arlene McCarthy MEP came to join us. We were knocking on doors in Kensington able to offer residents the full Labour team at their service, candidate, Councillor, MP and MEP - and all women. Labour in Liverpool is streets ahead of the rest when it comes to the representation of women.

The only sour moment was when TA soldier (dont know his rank but I expect it is quite high), Councillor Frank Doran came along leafletting, sporting his army back pack, and stopped to harangue Wendy for ten minutes as she chatted to two ladies on the doorstep. The women whose house they were at were appalled by him and the things he said and the way he behaved and his undignified hectoring. Ironically they didnt recognise him, although he has been their councillor for over 30 years.

His visit fully convinced them they were right to vote Labour, great vote winner Frank, will you come out with us all the time from now on please!

We had a good response, found lots of new Labour promises and got a lot more posters up. It was such a beautiful sunny day too.

Spent a few hours putting some more endorsers on more leaflets. People are so pleased to be asked to join in the campaign for a Labour Liverpool.

A really good positive feeling in the campaign centre today, everyone is getting a warm welcome on the streets in all of our key seats. Lots of joking and smiling and everyone mucking in together. We have stuffed envelopes for Speke, folded leaflets for Picton, laid out newsletters for Anfield, phoned voters in St Michael's... I love elections!

Friday, April 27, 2007

The bloody dentists

I hate going to the dentists, every three months for 10 years.

It is like living in 1984 on a permanent basis

Now I learn one of my back teeth is loose, and it is one I use a lot for eating, thanks, tooth fairy!

Dentist thinks I should have it extracted now and then she will sort out a replacement option in the fullness of time. I think I should hold onto it as long as humanly possible.

Dont you just loathe human frailities and the rubbish gene pool that caused your small imperfections?

Rosa's Welcome Event

I had an invitation today to Rosa's first birthday and welcoming party.

She is the most adorable baby, I love her so much.

Anyway, I am challenged to come up with wishes and pledges for the event, to paste into her special scrap book.

When Isaac was born I pledged to be his godmother in kind, albeit that he doesnt have any and it was not a religious ceremony. I was thinking about pledging the same for Rosa but adding that my wish for her is that she finds a friend she can be close to throughout her life in the way that I have been close to her mother for 29 years thus far.

Lisa is a Quaker, I dont know whether Quakers have religious ceremonies on a par with baptism, probably they do, but Rosa's Dad is not religious so far as I know, so presumably that is not an option.

What do you think I should wish and promise and hope for a beautiful baby girl with loving parents and a great big brother? Ideas and suggestions please...

Liverpool African Association AGM

Wendy and I were honoured to attend the first AGM of the Liverpool African Association at Fairfield Police Club on Thursday night.

We heard from two excellent speakers, Professor Tunde Zak Williams of the Central Lancashire University and Andrew Nembhard, the Head of Equal Opps on Liverpool City Council.

Afterwards we enjoyed wonderful African food

Everyone was very welcoming and we had a lovely evening, meeting people and making new friends. I look forward to a long and happy relationship with the Association.

Liverpool North's Community Justice Court

I had a long visit at this amazing court on Thursday. Susan McCready who manages the centre gave me a very thorough presentation and a tour of the facility which is proving such a success in North Liverpool.

It is a special court, a pilot project really, for a new kind of justice. The court hears criminal cases from across four wards in North Liverpool, Anfield, Everton, Kirkdale and County. It hears cases of crimes committed in those wards I should say, which in the main are committed by local people. There is only one Judge, consequently he knows the persistent criminals as they always come before him, he knows which criminals associate with which others. He knows about family circumstances, he knows the local geography, he can form the links between all of this as he hears the cases. A very good strategy.

All the law enforcers and people working in this sector, work together in the centre. The Police, the Anti-social behaviour unit, the Probation Service, the Youth Offender Team. Then also the support services needed to help people with problems with housing or benefits that have lead them into crime, so there is the CAB and representatives from the local Housing team. Family support workers, victim support, witness support, all sorts of people who are there to protect the victims are also working together in the centre. The fines are administered from this court too so if a persistent offender comes before the Judge he can also find out if they have been paying their last one as well as setting new ones.

The punishments are thoughful too, community orders for instance are usually fulfilled in the same North Liverpool neighbourhood. They might for instance be asked to work on a clean-up in Anfield if the crime was committed there. Criminals sent to Prison can often expect to serve their time at local Walton Prison too.

It is having good results and there are very few hold-ups or adjournments because everyone is on site to quickly resolve any hold-ups over missing statements or documents for instance.

It is joined-up working at its best. Now all we have to do is get the same provision for K&F.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Elm Park residents AGM

Wendy and I were pleased to attend the AGM of Elm Park residents on Wednesday.

The two main areas of concern that we were involved in discussing were some scary anti-social behaviour type issues with a vulnerable young female teenager (which I wont go into but the police are now already acting on at my request) and problems with rubbish and bins which I will go into.

The entries behind Hinton and Ottley run for long distances along Geneva and Ottley too. Someone is going through the bin bags between collections and masquerading as an official. The worry is that he is trying to steal identities. Have promised action on this, perhaps some more enforcement action like that which we have authorised on the Molyneux side.

A very hard working group of people, we always enjoy joining them. They put out a plea for more younger members as many committee members have been active for a long time, dont intend to pack in any time soon but would like to see some new blood coming through all the same.

If you live in Elm Park and want to get involved, let me know!

Parks Scrutiny Panel - What are our plans for the Lakes?

This session was held in Sefton Park, in the Palm House.

We had a walk round the park, two young media students joined us to get some ideas for newspaper stories they need to write for their coursework. We had a look at some of the areas that are going to be improved thanks to a big successful lottery bid. 1.5 million or thereabouts is going to be spent on the Lake, it was built well over a hundred years ago and is in need of renewal. They are fully lined but nothing lasts forever, they get silted up, the sides start to collapse, the water course changes and the water quality deteriorates.

It was truly amazing to learn that no-one in Britain or indeed in the world, truly knows how to maintain our historic lakes. So Liverpool City Council which has lots of lakes and ponds is now leading the way in working out the best way to do this. Even the specialist contractors are new to this, the company who worked on Greenbank Lake evidently were more used to canal bank work.

This could be a real feather in Liverpool's cap if the hardwork currently going in can be sold to other councils and heritage organisations across the world. I asked whether stately homes for instance knew how to manage old lakes - they don't, I asked whether other councils knew, they don't, I asked whether other countries knew, they don't.

All praise to the hardworking team who are now making this their priority.

Readers will be delighted to learn that the boat house - and ultimately boats - are coming back to Sefton Park.

And all being well, the same improvements can come to Newsham Park too in the fullness of time.

I was fascinated by the growth of the palms in the palm house, it is about 18 months since I was last in there. The staff have promised to let me have details of their top palm officer so that I can ask them to have a go at identifying my unusual palm.

The statue of Peter Pan looked lovely in its new home

Another wonderful meeting

In a fortnight we will be talking about security in parks, this is likely to be within Newsham Park, keep your eye on the council website for further details. Everyone welcome!

Deane Road Jewish Cemetery

I had a tour of the Deane Road Jewish Cemetery in Fairfield on Tuesday.

Saul Marks showed me round, he is head of the restoration project to bring the cemetery back to glory and then show people round as part of the Heritage trail.

It was opened in 1837 and full by 1906 when the last burial took place.

I have linked to his website, click the title of this post to go there and see the photos showing how far the project has already come.

Some very famous people are buried there, the two that come first to mind are David Lewis, the founder of Lewis's department store currently in the news headlines for going into receivership. Also H(arriet) Samuel and her husband and father-in-law, founders of H Samuels Jewellers. Also Charles Mozley, the first Jewish Mayor of Liverpool (before the Mayor became a Lord Mayor).

They need about half a million pounds to restore the cemetery, I have said I will help in any way I can but in the short term can help with clearing rubbish and that sort of thing.

I would really appreciate it if local K&F people reading this would contact Saul to offer their support and involvement.

This is a lovely place that needs us all to work together, of whatever faith, to bring it back to glory.

Official "re-opening" of St George's Hall

What a fabulous building

I was really pleased to accept an invitation to the opening of this wonderful architectural gem.

We all enjoyed the ceremony, although the Prince of Wales would not be my top choice as speaker, he seemed genuinely pleased to be in Liverpool, to see the building again and to open it.

The singing and the drama performance were great and he definitely enjoyed them both as he asked to meet the students from JMU again later.

Apparently royal protocol asks that the proles remain seated and dont wander about while the PoW is in the building so we had to keep our legs crossed, (or knees bent, depending on your leg room) but we got through it okay. Lots of the great and good were there. Fascinated to see that Rex Makin felt slighted by having to sit in the fourth row. The elected representative by and large were on the 11th and 12th rows.

He said (sorry that is Charles, not Rex) we need to consider much more deeply the natural rhythms and patterns of the earth and rely less on technology. He said that a third of the world's topsoil has been damaged in the last 50 years by mass farming and agriculture technology, scary stuff.

There was also something about boiling frogs in water, but we dont want to go there.

I was at a Park's Scrutiny Panel last night when we talked about the way in which our urban development is changing the water table and water courses, and affecting the quality and nature of our water in lakes. Perhaps the PoW had something there!

Fabulous building, I am never tired of visiting it or wandering round. Lots of scousers that I talk to have never been inside, make that a top priority for your summer holidays, it is something for us all to be immensely proud of!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cover blown!

Still fascinated by this LibDem leaflet from Mike Storey, deposed leader of Liverpool City Council.

Have just noticed that in the bottom right hand corner it actually says

"Only Mike Storey and the LibDems can beat Labour in Liverpool"

Game over Warren Bradley, it is now official, Mike wants his job back, assuming the voters re-elect him despite the closeness of the election.

Better get back to the day job, we have some fires in Fairfield you could be attending to

Looks like I spoke too soon

I have been well and truly "Mike Storey'd" today

I had a letter this morning in the post, handwritten and then risographed on tasteful blue paper from Mike. I hope that is not his real handwriting!

Anyway he rather belatedly wanted to ask me to use my postal vote to vote for him in the elections. My ballot paper came on Saturday morning and I voted for Tim there and then. So I am sorry about that Mike, I will have to stand you up on this occasion.

I am very puzzled why
a. he wrote to a Labour councillor (and wasted a stamp on it too)
b. he wrote so late - statistics demonstrate that the vast majority of postal voters, like me, use their vote the same day, it is now 5 days since ballot papers arrived
c. he says that the election in Wavertree is going to be very close between him and the Labour candidate.

Last year they had a 1400 majority, where has it gone?

Mind you, when I think about it, they had a majority of 2300 in 2004, so 900 voters had already deserted them between 2004 and 2006. Perhaps their canvas is telling them that another 900 have gone in the last 12 months?

I know he is deeply unpopular for bringing our city into disrepute but to have to resort to these scare tactics suggests some deep seated unease

Or then again he is just lying about the closeness of the election

Or he hasnt even drafted it, let alone written it, and doesnt even know what it says

Or he couldnt be bothered to find any local issues to talk about.

You decide!

None of it is edifying, I do know that!

Tonight when I got in my little pile of post had been added to by the arrival of a LibDem leaflet, still peddling the lies about the bins when it is a matter of public record that Labour voted this month in full council for weekly bin collections.

What we need in this country is a much stronger law against telling lies in leaflets. Apparently you can say what the hell you like about parties as long as you dont name individuals.

I simply cannot get my head round that and the LibDems are such liars that they have made this an art form!

Apparently George Bush is standing for Labour in Wavertree as well as K&F.

There is a picture of him and it says "A vote for anyone else let's their man win!"

This is gutter politics of the very worst kind and they should be ashamed, no really, I mean that, totally ashamed of themselves.

I cannot wait to hear the voter's verdict.

(I had one final letter in the post, it was from Mike Storey CBE asking me if I wanted to go to the light show at St George's Hall. You dont hear from the bloke for months and then you get three at once!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Campaign update

Just a quick update on the campaign to win a second seat for Labour in Kensington and Fairfield

We have finished our canvass for the moment and are now going back to Labour promises (people who have promised to vote Labour in the past). The purpose is to find out if they are still voting Labour and will be supporting Wendy in the election on May 3rd.

The good news is that Labour's vote is holding up beautifully.

Wendy is very popular with the people she meets, everyone warms to her and there is a really good feeling on the street.

The bins issue does not seem to have damaged Labour's chances here. I understand the LibDems have produced a yellow poster asking people to put it up in their windows to save their bin service. A service not under threat since Labour voted with the LibDems at full council in April for a weekly collection. Still, let's not let the facts get in the way of a good LibDem lie.

(It would however be remiss of me not to mention that since he received the solicitor's letter RM has changed the wording of his leaflets to say "Labour wantED to" rather than "want" to. I doubt if that will save his neck however.... )

I have not seen any posters up in windows yet although if I do see any, Wendy and I will be visiting to explain that we would never support collecting rubbish only once a fortnight and asking them to take them down again.

I am not sure they have really delivered many yet though so it might be a bit early to tell.

There are some Wendy posters up here and there, I dont recall having any last year, I dont think I had any printed, but I could be wrong, the years all roll into one after a bit.

We are not complacent, we have worked 40 hour weeks for the last three weeks on the campaign as well as 40 hour weeks in our day jobs. But I do have to say it feels good out there.

Warren Bradley, the LibDem Leader in Liverpool was in yesterday's Echo saying that Labour's successes in 2006 were just a "blip". He said the results in Princes Park where my mate Anna Rothery won and the result in Speke Garston where the lovely Doreen Knight won were only to be expected as they are natural Labour territory. (Not very heart warming for poor old Paula Keaveney, LibDem councillor in Speke Garston frantically trying to defend her seat to know that her leader has already written her off. I would poke him in the eye Paula, what a terrible thing to say as you do your best to get re-elected).

He also said that the Kensington and Fairfield result (when I won) was "just the wake up call we needed". Well hello Warren, you might have woken up, but your colleagues over here must have just turned over, pulled the quilt up over their ears to drown out the alarm and nodded off back to sleep.

Finally it was interesting to note that Councillor Mike Storey forced to resign his leadership of the City Council over a very unpleasant spat with the then Chief Executive has gone in the Echo saying that his self-imposed exile comes to an end the day after polling day.

Are you watching over your shoulder Warren?

I have not had a leaflet from Mike Storey, I live in his ward (and have just voted for the principled, earnest, thoughtful, engaging and intelligent Tim Beaumont who is definitely one to watch in the future in Labour politics in this city). Now that might be because they know where I live and have chosen not to post any through to me.

In which case I salute them, because last year they were writing personal letters to me asking me to vote for Steve Hurst, when I was a candidate for Labour in a different ward. Nice to see they have at least a tiny bit of targetting in their campaigns. Unless of course Storey has simply not put any out? Do you live in Wavertree ward? Have you had a leaflet?

Cannot wait for the count, and all the new blips

Sunday, April 22, 2007

More campaign stories

On Saturday Wendy and I went to give out posters to those who had requested them and also to take yet more photographs of people very keen to be on Wendy's literature.

We went to three houses in particular on the same estate - the first two delighted in telling us that they had chased the LibDems from their doorstep when leafletting, telling them how much damage the LibDems had done in their area and giving the leaflets back, the third told us that the last time they had been on a campaign leaflet it had been for the LibDems but never again would they fall for their cheap tricks. (Or at least that is what they said to us, might all be trumped up so let's call it alleged comments)

It is further alleged that Cllr Makinson's name was mud all over the estate, apparently he used to represent them, I didnt know that. I wonder what Picton residents think of him?

Clearly the LibDem star is now falling so fast it is about to crash into the sea and extinguish.

12 months ago Wendy and I did not know any of these people, we have met them this municipal year while out campaigning and going to meetings. They are not LP members, although it strikes me we should be recruiting them, they are hard working local community activists and they have been impressed with our work and now want to support us. It is a very warming and a very genuine support that has come about entirely through our work in the area. (LibDems reading this can please themselves whether or not they believe it, but I know it is the truth).

I dont know how they voted before, but obviously in the case of the person who is now supporting Wendy, who was on a photo on a LibDem leaflet in the past, they are a switch voter. (Actually now I think about it, we had two of those this weekend).

One family that Wendy went to see at the weekend, who had written asking for posters told her that they were keen to support Labour after we had helped their daughter with a housing issue but the man of the house told her that he had been voting Labour for over 50 years and this was the first time anyone ever asked him to go on a Labour leaflet, he was thrilled, so were we.

One of our best supporting cheer-leading couples, who we met about 14 months ago when responding to a survey they had returned, told us that Cllr Invisible had knocked on their door and asked them if they had received their postal votes and were voting LibDem. Evidently they gave him short shrift, told him they had already cast their vote for Labour. They told me he was Frank Doran until I asked them to describe him to me, not much facial recognition there then, for either of the LibDems. (Neither of them had a clue who Jimmy "Hendrix" was either.) They said they had only ever met me, Wendy, Claire and Lord Alton in all the donkeys years they have lived in the area. (They thought Lord Alton was great as a 16 and 17 year old but went really down hill since he went to Westminster apparently, allegedly).

My mate Suzanne from Glossop and I were leafletting in Lister Road at the weekend. We delivered a leaflet to Fareham residents in a lovely side street blighted by the Kenny Market wall that runs along the end of their street. We discussed how awful this was and how we should try to get something done about this. We walked on along Lister Road when a woman ran up behind us panting and flourishing our leaflet. "Did you deliver this?" she said. My heart sank, an angry resident wanting us to take it back, quite a rare occurence in this election. I said yes we had done so. "Are you LP members?" she asked, I confirmed that we were. "Oh good", said she "I just wanted to know what if anything you can do to help with the awful wall and fence at the end of Fareham, it is really upsetting to us all." I was pleased to tell her that we had been thinking the very same thing ourselves and would get on to it straightaway.

Rumours abound that the LibDem candidate in K&F is truly working on his own in this election. It is true that Wendy and I spotted about six LibDems in the Needham Triangle last weekend, but the candidate was not amongst them, perhaps they were briefing against him? None have been seen since.

This weekend he has been spotted in three different locations, delivering white envelopes, always on his own.

I see he is his own agent and that Frank Doran has not even nominated him, I bet there is an interesting story there!

We would be keen to hear from anyone who sees either LibDem councillor out and about in the last week or so before polling day, especially anyone who sees them together. Just what is the explanation for the rift that has appeared between them? (allegedly). Did FD stop RM from going on the chicken run? Did RM stop FD from sending him away? Does one or the other smell bad? Who can say? Or is it all supposition and totally unfounded and scurrilous allegations that you would do well to ignore?

Answers on a post card please to Frank's house, on the Beatle's Estate and if he pops home any time soon from where he really lives, he might just pick it up. Or at least that is the word on the estate, they claim he doesnt really actually actively live there. Personally I don't believe a word of it myself, outrageous lies. I am sure he is there every day and every night just like I am in L15 and RM is in L18 (ditto Wendy, although not in the same house I rush to explain). You clearly dont have to live in the ward to represent people, look at Cllrs Makinson, Jobling and Sidorczuk for instance, they dont live in Picton either.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

LibDems fiddle while Fairfield burns

If there is one issue in the ward (no, make that two, I can never put anything entirely ahead of the market), that really motivates me to be an active public representative it is the whole issue of the Prescot Road houses opposite the police club.

The endless delay and decay has rattled me for a long time, since before I was elected so about 15 months at least.

Two months ago I stupidly begged the council not to grant planning permission for a sign which said "Regeneration area here" type thingy, because they would be a humiliating laughing stock. Fancy me caring about that, I should have let them go ahead!

On Monday I sent an email to the Chief Executive of the Council, the City Solicitor, the great and the good and my co-councillors, demanding action and a response to my endless queries, questions and demands to do something about the blight, decay and delay that is the houses on the Prescot Road front, opposite the police club in Fairfield.

I have fought like a vixen for a resolution, despite four years of dithering by this council

I wrote threatening the council and C7 with legal action - by helping local people who still live in these blighted houses and want a resolution to find a solicitor who would take their case.

This morning I spent three hours in a meeting with the council and C7 and Kenny Regen and the MP Jane Kennedy where I went on and on about these houses and their neglect and our statutory failure in our duty of care.

Neither Cllr Invisible or his mate were there but nice Cllr Sidorczuk was and he will confirm that I spoke at length about this.

In particular I told the officers (all senior) that there was already a house burnt out last week and that I was worried about the rest

They didn’t even know about the fire, these people who are supposed to live their daily lives and earn their daily bread in this small neighbourhood area

I had to tell them which house and why they needed to secure and tidy up for the sake of the neighbours whose houses remained at risk. It was private house but neighbours a whole row of publicly owned ones.

Tonight, God help us, three more neighbouring houses went on fire. A private one was set on fire and the fire spread to neighbouring HA houses next door.

Tom McGuire told me that he had to call the security firm in to re-open the boarded up houses so that the fire fighters could get in to tackle the blaze because they had been so tightly fastened up. This only happened quite recently I think, as a result of my insistent demands that they properly secure properties and clean the yards and entries. A bit ironic in that the only house now vulnerable to arson was one in private hands and the fire spread to public ones that couldnt be accessed by the fire service for some time.

I think C7 are doing everything they can but are hide bound by the LibDem council who are laughingly managing these houses and the project. (There is no project, challenge them to show you something that has been put to me, there is nothing)

Jonathan Brown of Friends of Newsham Park has just rung me at 1.15am - that is how worried we all are, that he would even think I was awake - and that I was - to talk about the fire.

He says they will all be demolished by morning according to the fire service (not sure which houses, I think there is a block of about 4).

I think it is kids, he thinks local people will think it is much more cynical than that!!

(Entry edited on Friday morning as some aspects of the tale inevitably turned out to be inaccurate. There was no emergency rehousing, although there is one lady who will now need rehousing and C7 are working on finding her somewhere.)

Liverpool Echo story linked via clicking title of this post
Liverpool Daily Post story linked here

(I have not yet learnt how to do that in a more viewer friendly way, so that you click something that says "here" and off you go, please advise)

Monday night is residents' night

Wendy and I were flat to the boards on Monday night

I was at the Newsham Park Festival working group meeting at 3.30pm at our great new academy. Met lots of lovely people who want to put something into this festival (on June 30th, put it in your diary, it will be GREAT). The theme we agreed last year for this festival is the heritage and 800th birthday of Liverpool, in a Kensington and Fairfield setting.

We had an impromptu poetry reading by a scouser called John I think, I didnt get his name but he has won lots of awards and is entertaining and thought provoking. He is going to host a poetry corner with a bit of luck and also go into schools to encourage them to write some poems. He read three poems, one about the Williamson tunnels, one about being a scouser and one about hugging trees (very appropriate for park festival). He was great.

Have promised to help with marketing. Good to see local residents taking the lead in the planning in conjunction with the school. No sign of Cllr Invisible or his colleague.

Wendy and I then rushed off to GEARS residents meeting in Latham Court. Very useful meeting. Some very serious anti-social behaviour kicking off in this usually quiet and very well together community. The penny bench has been damaged which is really gutting. Names were named, have passed it all on and promised to be a professional witness if necessary. Told them the good news about McAlpines agreeing to support our request for a crossing on Prescot Road/Laurel Road.

We had to leave early to rush off again to FARA residents (leaving one early and turning up at the other late, what a shame, but it is important to go and listen and take away concerns, even if you cannot always do the whole agenda).

We arrived at FARA to see both Cllr Invisible and his mate sitting in the meeting. We fainted clean away and had to be revived with cold drinks. (That might not be strictly true)

When it came to the Councillors' report section the Chair was flummoxed. She is only used to Wendy and me being there, suddenly, as she herself said there were "four councillors" present. Wendy was waving frantically and pointing at herself and shaking her head, but the Chair had got into her stride. Four councillors they had and that was that.

We all had a go at giving a report, obviously mine was a bit more relevant as I managed to restrict myself to talking about things that affected THEIR area, rather than somewhere else. Wouldn't you think after 30 years that some councillors would know which associations covered where?

The bit that really made me cross though was when Cllr Never Heard of Him and Never Met Him and Who did you Say He Was got up to talk about the houses on Prescot Road.

Much much much more about this later

Left meeting with lots of hugs and kisses and good wishes for the election. Several people said they hoped we hadnt been embarassed or wrong footed by their presence, quite the reverse said I.

Wendy said to me that one of the others took a lot of casework away, she said he would be bound to do it in case there were votes in it, I said that I wouldn't count on it.

Not sure which of us is the more cynical.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The verb associated with DVDs

Here is a bit of a tester for you.

Earlier today I recalled that I had been otherwise engaged on Saturday night, going for a Indian at the Millon with friends, to watch Doctor Who.

My boss Elaine was telling me all about what a great episode it was and that the face of Boe said something very interesting that I would want to hear. Anyway, I digress.

I sent Colin an email asking him if he had captured this episode on disc and whether I could borrow it.

I realised I don’t know the proper verb for this activity.

You "video" things on a video, or "tape" things on a tape, but "DVDing" something just doesn't sound right.

What do you say?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tails from the trail

The following two stories which made me laugh or raise my eyebrows were told to me in good faith but might have no basis in fact

They are in fact purely "alleged"

So take them on that basis

Rumour has it that Richard Marbrow was chased down the street somewhere in Elm Vale by a big dog, friendly but a bit of a barker. He was heard to cry for help as he clambered on a wall to escape. I am told he was never in a scrap of danger from this friendly dog, who simply wanted to prove to himself that his eyes weren't deceiving him and that this really was the invisible man himself.

Warren Bradley was out campaigning for Richard Roberts in Warbreck (I dont think that is in dispute) when it is alleged a woman told him she was voting for Labour's Ann O'Byrne. The leader of Liverpool City Council is alleged to have fallen back to position B and said to said voter "But it is really a vote for me....!!"

Poor old Richard Roberts, not even his leader puts him first, what a refreshing arrogance.

I am sure this is all entirely not true though, right guys?

Lots more stories available if you like to hear them!

PS The streets and pavements of K&F are littered lately with LibDem leaflets that have been thrown back by disgruntled voters. What a mess they make!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hannan Road - surgery

We had a delegation from Hannan Road at Friday's surgery in the Fairfield Centre.

They had a few issues of anti-social behaviour to discuss with us that I hope we can get some progress on.

I told them I had been expecting them the previous week in Prescot Road, but they said they simply hadnt believed we would be holding a surgery on a bank holiday (Good Friday).

We did though.

You cannot go round advertising surgeries and then not turning up, can you? LibDems please note

First Phythian estate surgery

Wendy and I held our first Phythian Estate surgery in the Central Youth Club on Thursday. It is going to be the second Thursday of every month and supplements our weekly surgeries elsewhere.

They were queuing to get in

All the usual stuff, housing issues, anti-social behaviour, crime, rubbish, noise pollution.

All the people who came are keen to see a cohesive community who work well together and it was all about making things better for themselves and their neighbours.

I am really pleased we have been able to honour our promise to give them a special service. It has proved very popular.

Glorious Parks Scrutiny Panel meeting in Walton

We had a great meeting in Walton Park, talking about young people and children and how they use the parks.

It was a beautiful afternoon and we really enjoyed our walk round the park, learning about its successes and challenges.

The two biggest issues are anti-social behaviour after hours and the failure of the council to provide any graffiti removal service.

In terms of this latter problem, we were shown photos of how great the playground equipment looked last year when it was installed and what a good thing the fitness trail is. Unfortunately neither look like that any more, both are blighted with serious scale graffiti, very off-putting for families and their children, although the equipment was still in good use.

Apparently Glendale, the partners who are looking after the care of our parks dont deal with graffiti and the council has not asked Enterprise - the contractors who clean everything else up in the city (allegedly) to do this either.

This will have to be addressed in our final report as it is a real disappointment.

The anti-social behaviour is around large groups of young people congregating at evening weekends and bringing alcohol and making a nuisance of themselves and also youngsters riding illegal motorbikes round the park at all hours - indeed one drove past us while we were looking round. We are having a session on security in parks soon when we will need to address this firmly.

There is also a now abandoned area which used to house pets, it really needs bringing back into use and the council promised the Friends Group at our meeting that they will meet them to talk about options for this.

Great sporting facilities though and being a hot sunny day in the school holidays, the place was buzzing with activity.

Another busy week on the stump!

Wendy Simon - our Labour candidate in Kensington and Fairfield in fewer than three weeks time - and I have been campaigning hard all week.

We had some time off work at the beginning of the week together and have produced some great leaflets which will be going out in the next week or so, lots of local people are queuing up to get their photos taken with her, supporting her, which is always a great boost.

We have been out and about knocking on doors and I am pleased to say that the recognition factor is now very high. There are moments of small complication on the west side of the ward when some people think that as a Labour politician whose face they know and whose name is Louise, maybe I am the MP - really it is Louise Ellman but it is easy to see how people can be confused.

People like Labour's style and our willingness to engage with them, they are apparently also talking to each other about our effective casework. Several residents when we were out knocking today made reference to some small personal successes we had achieved for their friends or neighbours.

It has been beautiful weather for getting out and about too, what more could you ask for?

40 or so LP members were in Warbreck at the weekend where we only missed out last year by 20 odd votes. Ann O'Byrne is going to be a fabulous campaigning councillor when she is elected in May, everyone I spoke to thought she was already their councillor, now that really is high recognition factor!

I spent half an hour in Croxteth helping them stuff envelopes and listening to how well the campaign is going there, the idea of the LibDems fielding a DUP supporter has gone down like the proverbial lead balloon with local people who are frankly simply aghast.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

North-South divide, neglect in L6

A good spread in the Echo earlier this week on my concerns about the ongoing neglect in the L6 side of the ward.

Once Wendy is elected and we have the majority in the ward and on the Neighbourhood Committee we will be making sure that this appalling situation is put right. We will insist that it gets a fair share of attention and support.

I am also Deputy Chair of the Joint Neighbourhood Committee looking at the Neighbourhood Agreement and will be making sure that L6 is given some priority in that document and forward plan.

We cannot go on any longer allowing half of the ward to drown under a sea of waste and decay while the dead hand of the LibDems delays all progress.

The article itself can be reached by clicking on the title of this post.

There was a really good photo too but it is not on the website so you will have to take my word for that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Full list of candidates published

The full list of candidates was published last week.

A couple of surprises in Kensington and Fairfield

A woman is standing for the BNP and because of her surname she will be first on the ballot paper. This is very bad news because there is a lot of racial tension in the area and their presence could really inflame things. I also worry that the public will allow her more credibility than she merits, just because she is a woman.

The other surprise is that the Liberal Party has obviously done a deal with the Liberal Democrats, in that they are not standing a candidate this year, for the first time, in Kensington and Fairfield, while the LibDems are not standing a candidate in Clubmoor Ward where the Liberal Party came second last year.

What deceitful conniving opportunistic bastards they are.

I think it is unheard of for a ruling political party not to field a candidate in a local election. It just shows how desperate they are to cling on to power in Kensington and Fairfield if they are prepared to make a national laughing stock of themselves in Clubmoor to try and save their man. It is a total waste of time of course as our polls show that the Liberal voters wouldn't vote LibDem for a gold clock, they think they are all "splitters" (fancy that).

Steve Radford's credibility has just gone right out of the window too

It is a bloody disgrace and both parties should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves

We of course are going to concentrate on our campaign to ask voters to support Wendy Simon because she is going to do a really good job for them. She certainly wont be the second-best runner-up candidate that people are asked to vote for because their first choice pulled out!

A great Easter weekend

I had a great easter weekend, Mum and Roger came to stay and we had a lovely time.

We went to the Tavern on Smithdown Road for some great Mexican food on Saturday night. I dont know anyone who doesnt really enjoy a night out in there.

On Sunday morning we went to Elm Hall Drive Methodist church - what a huge place, we stayed afterwards for coffee and as we wandered off looking for the hall where it was to be served, we seemed to pass masses of rooms. It was a lovely service, lots of young people and children and lots of music and singing. We sang "This is the way to find Salvation" to the tune of Amarillo!

I made Easter Sunday lunch - chicken rather than lamb - and in the afternoon we went into the city centre. We went to the Walker Art Gallery to have a look at the McNair/MacDonald exhibition (old friends of Charles Rennie McIntosh who taught him all he knew, as far as I could see). Frances in particular was a wonderful artist.

We also spent half an hour over coffee discussing the more obvious differences between modern and traditional art. One particular one being that while some of the larger traditional paintings took months and years to paint, some of the new art can be done in an afternoon.

On Monday we had a very interesting trip to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port where it was a special weekend for bargees. We had a trip up and down a short stretch of canal and then a very good look round the different buildings on the site. It was very cold after the warmth of Saturday and Sunday and we probably could have stayed longer and seen more if it were not for all the shivering. There are five small cottages on the site which were built for canal porters and their families. They have been preserved at various stages from their history. So there is one from the 1840s - very plain interior, no decorating or ornaments. Then we go to the late 1800s, the 1900s, 1930s and 1950s. My favourite kind of musuem exhibit - which is why I like to go to the Castle Museum in York so much, the history of homes is fascinating.

Back to the Campaign grindstone today, I spent 9 straight hours in the LP office, importing postal vote data into all of our electronic registers, working on Wendy's election address with her, helping Croxteth do their targetted mail, talking to various candidates and agents about their campaigns, printing, folding, stuffing. So much to do, so little time!

Good news and bad news with CML residents

Wendy and I went to a meeting of the CML residents on Thursday. That is Cheviot, Middleton and Lindale Roads off Edge Lane.

It was a lively meeting where we talked about the long list of snaggings that are still outstanding on their homes despite all promises to the contrary about it being sorted out by the end of the financial year last week.

I have promised to have another go at the builders on their behalf.

That nice man Julian from McAlpines came along too to talk about their work on Edge Lane with all the resurfacing, new granite sets, pavements, tree planting and so on and so forth. He has been really great with CML residents since I pointed out that he had forgotten to include them in any consultation or update about the road closure last month while the new surface was being laid.

Nothing is too much trouble for him now.

He is working very hard on their behalf, redesigning the road, hoping to bring traffic lights in to help with the way in and out of the estate, they were very impressed. He also told us that he has persuaded LLDC to put a crossing on Edge Lane Drive. I said I wished I had that power and asked him to see if he could persuade them to put one on the junction of Laurel Road and Prescot Road. We all know that once a cross-city route is opened up through the Technology Park that road junction will be totally unmanageable - the traffic flow will increase massively as people who usually use either Durning Road or Rathbone Road move onto this road. Traffic lights are the only asnwer. I think he understood the point I was making in the end and vowed to give his support to the idea.

The bad news was that the committee had been there for three years and were tired and wanted a rest. No-one took their place, so it might be the end of the Association. I was really upset, not sure what can be done though. It wasnt helped by the failure of the Officer from Kensington Regeneration to turn up, knowing as she did that this was their AGM.

I will ask them to try again to support these residents who are going to need lots of help as the new development is being built on Lomond Road on the entrance to their estate.

It was a very warm and friendly meeting, I really enjoyed it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Putting your private life in the spotlight

When Steve Faragher set up his Councillors' blog pages on Kensington Vision he promised readers that they would learn not just about our public lives but also our private lives.

I have thought about that a lot since.

As a rule I dont write much about the truly personal stuff - my love-life or my work-life for instance. But sometimes you have to get into the truly personal things in order to make the political or social points that need to be made.

This week is going to be like that and because it is important, I want to use this blog as a vehicle to explain and comment on why I am exposing something very private and how I hope it will be viewed.

People who know me well will know that in 1999 my fiance Michael Price died of Carbon Monoxide poisoning in his home. That is the key driver behind my relentless push for detectors in the Kensington and Fairfield area and indeed, if I had the power to influence a wider world, a push for detectors in every home.

Last week there was a story in the Liverpool Echo about a family in Little Neston on the Wirral who were poisoned by a faulty boiler and who were dragged out to safety by their son and a neighbour who found them unconscious in the sitting room. The family are now calling for people to install detectors in their homes.

I know how they feel, it is only by trying to save other people from the same dreadful circumstances that makes any sense of the tragedy. Thankfully in their case no-one died but it could so easily have been different.

I take every chance I can, in memory of Michael who was a wonderful bloke and who I adored, to promote safety.

So, I have been in touch with the Echo and asked them to publicise Michael's story in the hope that it will encourage people in the Kensington and Fairfield area to take up Kenny Regen's offer of free CO detectors to keep them safe.

I also want to encourage people to have their chimneys swept regularly and their appliances checked. It is not just boilers that produce CO but anything that burns carbon.

The downside is that it exposes my personal loss to people who didn't know before and the worry is that they treat you differently, at least for a little while. I sensed that the journalist I gave the detail to was unsure of how to be with me, knowing now of my loss, and yet he has never had a problem before. I am sure this will be repeated with others, as it was in Huddersfield when I last felt the need to publicise Michael's story after a young boy locally died in similar circumstances.

I want everyone to be alert to the danger and to the symptoms and to protect themselves, but I dont want anyone to suddenly feel they have to treat me with kid gloves or with nervousness because they are now aware of something that in fact happened 8 years ago and which I long ago came to terms with.

So, if you see the article in the Echo and then read this, please dont treat me any differently, nothing has changed except that you now know something you didnt know before. I don't want sympathy, I want you to listen and take action and protect yourselves and your families.

That will be the best response you can give me.

A great meal to celebrate Lisa's birthday

I forgot to mention Lisa's birthday meal on March 28th

A group of us went to Piccolinos on Cook Street, central Liverpool for a great meal.

Six of us had two courses each and not one of those 12 dishes was a disappointment, it was great food and great company.

(Mind you, four meals out, four nights running has left me rather "dined-out")

I wrote in her card that I hoped that she was now fully cognisant with the meaning of life, but for those of you that are befuddled, here follows an extract from Wikipedia.

The Answer to The Ultimate Question Of Life, the Universe and Everything is a fictional solution in Douglas Adams's series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the story, the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is sought using the hypercomputer Deep Thought. It produced the Answer (after a very long computation time — 7.5 million years) however the computer was insufficiently powerful to provide the Ultimate Question to match the answer of "42."

I can of course say these cheeky things, because as she herself pointed out, for at least the next five months she is once again older than me!

It was a lovely evening, beautifully finished off by learning that England had managed a good result against Andorra - but not as good as we managed in September last year which if I my memory is right was a marvellous 5-nil

We celebrate our 29th anniversary as friends in a fortnight's time. I think that is really special. I remember when I was 30 and Lisa came to my house in Stockton along with my Mum and her friend Jean to share the day with me. I think Mum and Jean were celebrating something like their 45th year of friendship at that time.

At 20 years we had a short break in Amsterdam, at 30 years we fancy Berlin.

How lucky I am that my friend and I are still so close both geographically and fundamentally.

Raising a glass to you Lisa on your birthday, have a great year, you deserve it.

Another day and yet another Minister, spoilt or what?

Saturday's Action Saturday got off to a great start as Rt Hon Hazel Blears, MP for Salford, Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet and Chair of the national Labour Party joined us on the streets of Liverpool.

There were a few delicate souls with tender heads after Friday night's dinner, but a very big crowd turned up to boost the campaign in Yew Tree where Labour only missed out by 13 votes last year.

Candidate Barbara Murray was delighted to lead a team on the knocker in Yew Tree with Hazel Blears, two Salford activists she brought with her to join us, a Labour friend from Bradford who was hoping to learn more about our campaign methods, Stephen Twigg the man who famously beat Michael Portillo in the Enfield Southgate general election in 1997 and yours truly who kept them all hard up to the mark for a few hours on clip board duty.

We knocked on doors up and down East Prescot Road and Princess Drive on a beautiful sunny morning, passing regularly, as we walked, Labour members and councillors from all over the city who were working really hard delivering an excellent leaflet.

It was one of those moments that gives you a really warm feeling, when you see the sight of lots of activists ranged along the street on doorsteps, chatting with local people. We took quite a few photos and a bit of video footage that I would like to use in a future training session.

We found nearly 200 new Labour promises and Hazel met lots of key people in the area, including the vicar and some old and new local LP members including a former councillor.

Sometimes I really regret not being a professional LP organiser any more, but the years of experience are so useful locally and make such a difference when you are encouraging and training people who are new to campaigning.

Barbara was really energised, having also spent time in Yew Tree with Labour Leader Joe Anderson earlier in the week. It gives such a huge boost to your campaign to have the support of upwards of 50 people for one special day.

Hazel went off after lunch to Speke/Garston where I am in no doubt she would have enjoyed speaking to local residents about their success in voting in another great Labour Councillor in the "swinging" by-election last month.

Wendy and I spent the afternoon going to see a few people about a few items of casework and had a late brunch in the Starlight Cafe on Prescot Road which we particularly like and recommend to all.

A lovely sunny day with lots of lovely sunny outcomes

(I told you I was becoming nauseating)

Never mind Neville Kelly, King of Swing, what about Councillor Colin Strickland?

I have now worked out the swing to Labour from the LibDems in the Speke byelection, using the formula shown on the website I have linked to from the title of this entry.

It was 19.65%

Let's call it 20% for ease


Neville Skelly, King of Swing was great at our dinner on Friday night, but Councillor Strickland's swing was even more impressive

Let's see that repeated all over the city on May 3rd and get rid of this shower of FibDems once and for all

Another day, another Minister, another dinner

Friday was the turn of Rt Hon Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Affairs, to visit Liverpool.

In the early evening he came to the LP office to meet local party members for a chat about the campaign for the local elections, he also gave the opportunity of a chat with Leon, one of our newest members, who now has British Citizenship but who is originally from the Congo.

Hilary was hoping to come out knocking on doors with the K&F Labour team but he was kept late having a vigorous conversation with politics students at Liverpool JMU and then had to negotiate the traffic jam nightmare that is Edge Lane at the moment while the highways improvements are taking place.

We had a good talk though and Leon in particular was made-up that simply by putting his hand up and joining the Labour Party, the doors have been opened to him to meet and discuss issues of huge importance to him with key political figures.

We went on to the Devonshire House Hotel for a Labour Party dinner, geared at fundraising and socialising and strengthening our bonds with each other.

Guess what we ate? Yeah, roast beef and yorkshire pudding and strawberry shortcake to follow.

Deja Vu writ large!

Hilary was the after-dinner speaker and spoke very well, particularly about his Ministerial brief and the wonderful work Labour has done in the developing world in the last ten years, fighting aids, poverty, lack of schooling, clearing debt and bringing hope to millions. It was very moving.

I really enjoyed myself, allowing myself a few glasses of wine with all my mates.

There was dancing, singing, lots of hugs and kisses and a real family feeling.

I have really "come home" in Liverpool, I dont feel lonely or fed-up or frustrated by a lack of progress, instead I am now thoroughly embedded both in the community where I live, the community I represent and with my new Labour Party family.

It's a great life, just watch some bastard spoil it (as a badge I used to wear once said)

Kensington Community Awards

I was very keen to go along to the Kensington Community Awards at the ubiquitous Devonshire House Hotel on Thursday night to see local people be honoured for their great work in their community.

I sat on a table with Holly Road neighbourhood people who were all lovely. I knew Pat Doyle and his wife from various of the committees on Kenny Regen that I sit on, Pat is the Chair of the oft mentioned Community Safety one. I also sat next to Andrew, the vicar of St John's which was good, I have asked to get involved in some of the work they do in the area. We had a quiz around James Bond movies which was the theme of the evening, but I dont think we were all that clued up really.

I was also happy to see friends from FARA, GEARS and Holt Road residents, several of whom were nominated for very well deserved awards and some of whom actually won - well done Betty in particular. (I was myself invited for making a few nominations of my own.)

It was another chance to deepen the ties and friendships with the wardens, C7 people and Kenny Regen officers as well as the police. (I dont think Purdah must extend to being "off duty" and with a glass of wine.)

Apparently Dean Sullivan, who was the MC for the evening, told a friend of mine at the bar that far from being a Lib-Dem he was a Labour man and was wrongly quoted in the papers by a friend, so that is okay then. I could never have seen Jimmy Corkhill as a LibDem!

Everyone was very dressed up, tuxedos and fine frocks

We had roast beef and yorkshire puddings and a strawberry cheese cake to follow, it was a really lovely evening and I had a great time, although went home very sober at 11pm.

Minister for Police, Tony McNulty MP, visits Kensington and Fairfield

Tony McNulty was in Liverpool today to listen to Cllr Warren Bradley's request for more money for police in 2008.

Apparently it did not go well as Cllr Bradley called him "a waste of time" in the paper the next day. Just the sort of professional, thoughtful, grown-up attitude we look for in our elected leaders. No wonder the LibDems in Liverpool dont see some of their childishly expressed demands met.

That is not to say that they dont always ask for support that I would welcome, but their total lack of grace or finesse must have a lot to do with their failure to succeed.

Anyway, afterwards, Tony took time to come to Kensington and Fairfield and meet some of the key people and organisations fighting anti-social behaviour as a partnership in the area.

We met at Community 7 office (which is officially opened next week by no less a figure than the Bishop of Liverpool). They have really put their money where their mouth is, funding 14 community wardens (yes that is right, 14, count them) and staff dedicated to fighting Anti-Social Behaviour, mainly the dynamic and energetic and dedicated Christine Flood who is a real asset to the whole community.

Jane Kennedy had set the meeting up to show Tony what we are up to locally, and Wendy and I were delighted to help with the invite list. We asked Frank Richardson to come along, who is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce to fight ASB on behalf of local businesses and has created the As One group which I also sit on. He is an ex policeman and really knows his stuff.

We also invited Maria Grimes (there she is again) and Alan Kelly of Kensington Regeneration who work closely with the Community Safety Group.

And there were of course the leader of the wardens and some of the wardens themselves

All working very well together to fight crime and anti-social behaviour in the area

The police would have been there too had they not got cold feet because of Purdah (that is the time when civil servants and public servants have to be careful of doing anything political in the run up to the election.)

I took great delight though in emphasising to the Minister that here in Kensington the partnership was not just in name only, it was a true partnership, where no-one was hide-bound to egos or seniority and we were all friendly with each other as well as doing our very best for the community.

These people are a real credit to the community and Wendy and I have just prepared a leaflet which I hope will give them some of the kudos they so rightly deserve.

I think they were all chuffed to be asked to come along, Tony was impressed too with their work, and rightly so.

Parks Strategy Scrutiny Panel on tour in Belle Vale

I know my constant smiling is beginning to nauseate a bit, but really I am having such a great time being a Councillor and having an input into all the things I care so much about.

Believe me, after some of the stupendously crap things that have happened to me in my life, this has to be the best of times.

My Mum told me once that her life really turned a corner when she was 40, I hoped mine would too, never quite believing it, but it seems it really has.

Anyway, enough of such things, we went to Belle Vale Park for this session and had a walk round a park very different to the grand Calderstones with its emphasis on horticulture. This session was all about the different way that parks are used and in Belle Vale that is about activity, sport, playing and having a great time.

We met the newly elected Chair of the newly formed Friends of Belle Vale group and she was so enthusiastic about the differences they were already making. It is not a park of shrubs and plants and flowers, although they have planted some wild flower beds and semi-meadows that I hope to visit again in June when they are at their best. There are football pitches and plans for cycling facilities (indoor and outdoor), outdoor ping pong tables (I think I will need to see one to understand how that could work) and picnic tables for local shoppers and shop workers. There is also a special Millenium centre serving the local people with a coffee shop, bar, library and meeting rooms, right in the middle of the park.

We had a presentation after our walk about the Green Flag scheme which is organised by the Civic Trust. They award green flags to those parks in the country who are welcoming, clean and well designed, taking into account their local heritage, and accessible, with thoughtful provision of services to local people.

These highly prized awards are what drives local Parks Departments to improve their parks and Liverpool hopes to secure another three over the next few years.

There is also, we learnt, a "Good Parks" guide nationally, which apparently Liverpool features in. That would be a great present for my birthday if anyone is reading! I love parks, imagine being able to confidently visit parks round the country as you go to new places, knowing you will have plenty to enjoy.

Once again we all came away from the session full of bonhomie and good warm feelings. I am glad I am on Parks and not the worthy but heavy Waste Management panel.

Community Safety - and the push for CO detectors

A great Community Safety meeting this month

I dont know if I have talked much about them before, other than to mention the continuing drive to get CO detectors into the area.

They are part of a series of committees set up by Kensington Regeneration (Kensington New Deal for Communities) to look at the key areas the KNDC is concentrating on.

I wont have this exactly right, but there are committees looking at Neighbourhood Services (which I sit on), DEHENS which I dont sit on but think is Housing and the Environment perhaps, Quality of Life and Community Safety. I think there is also a BME committee.

These are chaired by residents and involve any partners that can be brought together to resolve problems.

I dont know how I came to be called upon to sit on these two (and indeed have had an invite to sit on a third but couldnt fit it in, time wise, as they all sit during the day) but I am glad I have been. It is a great chance for residents to explain what needs doing and the partners to work out how to tackle the problems. So on Community Safety for instance we have representatives of the police, fire service, youth service, domestic violence forum, PCT, CCTV and lots of residents, along with C7 staff (the principal RSL) and of course Kenny Regen staff.

We talked this month about some interesting drug dealing issues and the residents gave the police some vital new info about a particular pub in need of some serious attention. We talked about sone very disturbing racial harassment and violent incidents in the Botanic Park and Durning Road area, some of the great work being done by our youth clubs in Edge Hill and Central and generally really got things out into the open.

I was delighted with the ongoing progess to get the Carbon Monoxide detector scheme under way, we only need to finalise the agreeing of expenses for the Fire Service Volunteer group to help install them into people's homes and we can begin the door-knocking to get people to take them.

Great news - I dont mind going to committee meetings if we get things done!

New Neighbourhood Agreements

Monday saw something very new and exciting, my first ever meeting as a Councillor where Labour was in the political majority, heady stuff.

Liverpool City Council has decided to go along the path of Neighbourhood Agreements. They have divided our thirty wards into five groups, each of six wards, each group containing two neighbourhood committee areas. My neighbourhood committee, Everton, Kensington and Fairfield and Picton (not a great name) has been twinned with the Waterfront neighbourhood committee (a much better name) to form some ludicrously named joint committee which I cannot be bothered to type as it goes on for half a paragraph.

These six very different wards are meant to come together to agree joint priorities for "our" area and then create a neighbourhood area agreement (NAA) about how these priorities will be delivered. These NAAs cover health, the economy, the physical environment, education and housing and all of those sorts of things. Big important all encompassing issues.

Our wards are

Kensington and Fairfield

That encompasses some very run down areas along with those living the high life on the marina, the dock apartments favoured by footballers and the actual city centre

It is a nonsense to imagine that we can, as a group of wards, have any shared priorities. What is important in one area, like better transport from the river banks into the city and some kind of local corner shop provision for the apartment dwellers, is of no relevance to those living in what are essentially slum clearance areas in some other parts of the area where getting the place cleaned up is of primary importance. Even the crimes are different, car crimes in one part, drug dealing and prositituion in another, arson in a third.

We have long been concerned that although there are parts of the city where such groupings make perfect sense, like the wards along the south and south east of the city - Church, Allerton, Mossley Hill etc, they are nonsensical in the north and the centre.

Councillor Steve Munby who is our Housing and Neighbourhoods Spokeperson lead us through this latest meeting to a consensus that although the council officers had prepared a paper that identified lots of priorities, some with an input from a group of us at a hastily held meeting a few weeks before, this is all far too serious to be rushed and far too serious to be agreed by just us councillors without the involvement of all our partners, agencies and residents.

So we took a vote to put off the decision making for our "area" until after the elections when the then duly elected representatives can take their time to come to the right decision and not rush it. I was really pleased to be elected as Deputy Chair to the committee.

I know that Steve is passionate about the mechanism and getting it right, and as a representative of the Waterfront neighbourhood committee, as well as our Labour spokesperson, he will be great as the Chair. Once he has got all the detail sorted out and we can be sure we have consulted properly, I hope I will come into my own in making sure that the priorities we identify are truly the people's priorities. That is what matters to me. I am very serious about making sure that we listen and do not merely dictate to local people about what it is they care about. It is their neighbourhood in the end after all.

What a week!

What a very full and exciting week this has been.

Lots of very interesting things to report on, indeed what a month March has turned out to be.

(I know I am writing this in April, but for me, however traditional it is to think that the week starts with Sunday, for me it has always ended on a Sunday, on the 7th day, when I rest at bit)

In the next few posts I am going to tell you about the meeting to discuss the new neighbourhood agreements. I will tell you about three, yes, three visits from top Government Ministers to Liverpool and to Kensington and Fairfield in particular, exciting meetings of the Community Safety committee for Kensington New Deal, another Parks Scrutiny session, this time in Belle Vale Park and two dinners in the Devvy where I must consider buying shares.

And then today's wonderful visit to the Walker Art Gallery

Sometimes I feel truly blessed