Thursday, June 28, 2007

Emerging details of new cabinet

It is really exciting today, it feels like the day after a general election.

Who is out, who is in, how did my favourites get on, how are the women doing....

Here is the BBCs latest information as at about 1pm

Prime minister: Gordon Brown
Chancellor: Alistair Darling
Foreign Secretary: David Miliband
Home Secretary: Jacqui Smith
Health: Alan Johnson
Schools and children: Ed Balls
Justice: Jack Straw
Commons leader: Harriet Harman
Defence and Scotland: Des Browne
Int Development: Douglas Alexander
Work and Pensions: Peter Hain
Northern Ireland: To be confirmed
Cabinet office minister: Ed Miliband
Culture: James Purnell
Transport: Ruth Kelly
Lords leader: Baroness Ashton
Attorney General: Baroness Scotland
Environment: Hilary Benn
Chief Whip: Geoff Hoon
Industry: John Hutton
Duchy of Lancaster: To be confirmed
Housing: Yvette Cooper (tipped)
Communities: Hazel Blears

What say you?

I am very pleased so far, especially as five of the Deputy Leader candidates are in there already, is there room for a sixth?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Knowsley Hall Music Festival - Sunday

Colin and I went to the Knowsley Hall music festival on Sunday. We paid around £40 for the pleasure and got there full of excitement and anticipation

We got up there about noon but it was around 1.30pm before they let us park our car and then walk the long walk through several fields (at least a mile) before we got into the complex. It was already thick with water and mud but we had no idea what was still to come.

One of the first to arrive we bought a blow-up settee for £15 (a huge sum for a temporary item but it proved worth its weight in gold, which as I think about it, was probably itself less than £15, LOL). We found a relatively dry spot in front of the big stage and the big screen and for a few hours we were more or less on our own. But as the show wore on and the names playing got bigger, more and more people joined us.

The photo shows us about 4pm before the mud really got going but the rain had started.

They had refused to let us bring in food or drink, so we quickly quaffed our cans of coke at the entrance (thankfully we had not brought sandwiches otherwise things might have been a lot more aggressive at the gate as they made people throw food into bins before they came in). We did have a cheese burger each and a tray of chips to share at £9.50, and as a one-time Yorkshire dweller I could scarcely thole it, so we only had the one lot of food. Colin was drinking Stella, I was on water so I dont know what the bar bill was like but I suspect it was huge.

The mud crept on slowly, and by about 4pm there was not a blade of grass left on the site, and I kid you not, it became a mud bath.

The music was great, it started off well and got better and better as the day wore on, Madness were a particular triumph, the rain poured down and the ground disintegrated but the music was awesome, they even did the House of Fun, my own personal favourite, it was electric. They opened with "One step beyond" complete with the opening "heavy, heavy sound" soundtrack, fabulous.

By about 9pm the drunks were falling over in the mud, throwing bottles and cans across the audience and even one of the wonderful inflatable sofas, it started to get scary. I wonder why no-one tells you this when they report back in the newspapers? Perhaps they were sponsors?

I saw a ten year old girl being lead out of the area with a bloody head, crying, it was bound to be the result of a bottle to the back of the head, how does anyone think this is good fun?

We left in the middle of the Zutons, who I love, and missed Keane. Call me a scaredycat if you like but it had become somewhere that felt intimidating rather than exhilirating.

Thankfully when we finally got to the carpark there was still a chance for at least another 20 cars to get out of the top gate before it became a quagmire, the bottom gate was already shut with abandoned cars littering the field, covered in mud.

Thankfully even more so no-one stopped the car to see Colin with no trousers and shoes, he was so muddy he wrapped them up in my rain poncho and hid them in the footwell on the way home.

I am clearly am too old for this life, be it Glastonbury or Knowsley, I like my creature comforts too much! No-one can account for rain or mud, but there was insufficient straw or walkways either. We did have a great musical experience but the planning was poor, the toilet queue was over an hour long and the stewarding was so minimal as to be invisible. Sorry if I sound miserable, but this was the experience of a middling aged woman, no longer 17 and up for it to that degree.

I will want to go again next year but only if Lord Derby has learnt a few lessons.

African festival in Kensington

Wendy and I were in the Kensington Sports Centre on Saturday to join in with the African celebrations in the sports centre on Jubilee Drive, Kensington.

We turned up in time to see the musical workshop with children and bands, I bought a loose African dress to wear on holiday or when relaxing and a great pair of purple earings. I also had a lovely lunch thanks to Senegambia Menus (Senegal and Zambia) who I tried to take a photo of at the Edge Hill festival last week. I have that photo now although one of the ladies moved, but I hope you see how beautiful they look.

We loved the band and the dancing, it was a great afternoon.

Sadly there were not many attendees, maybe they were in Sefton Park at a different African festival? I hope these events don't clash next year.

Extract from Ann Black's NEC report of 24th June 2007

This is an extract from a personal report from Ann Black, LP NEC member, it is not an official report. Further of her reports are available online, you can google for them.

"Gordon Brown assured us that despite the rumours, conversations
with Paddy Ashdown had been limited to issues around security and
investment in Northern Ireland, given his role as Chair of the parades
commission and his longstanding experience. There was no
question of him joining the cabinet, and though we needed to draw in
everyone who shared our values, Gordon intended to lead a Labour
cabinet and a Labour government.

Moving on to the main event, Labour proved that it can prevent leaks
when it tries, to the extreme annoyance of the media. At half past
one the six candidates for deputy were locked in a room, deprived of
their BlackBerrys, told the results, and given a brief time to compose
themselves. The audience waited in ever-increasing impatience
while the NEC Chair Mike Griffiths and general secretary Peter Watt
welcomed us to Manchester, still a Tory-free zone, emphasised the
inclusiveness of the process, praised the conduct of the candidates
and the quality of debate and thanked all those involved, especially
the party staff who have worked without a break virtually since

At last the suspense was ended, with less than one per cent
separating the winner and the runner-up in the final round, and
individual party members proving decisive. (The full breakdown was
published in Monday’s Guardian.) Turnout was 99% among MPs
and MEPs, 53% for individual members, but only 8% in the affiliate
section, maybe depressed by some ballot papers arriving just days
before the deadline. The hustings showed that all the candidates
had much to contribute, and I am sure that Gordon Brown can find a
use for all their talents without resorting to the LibDems. After warm
applause Harriet Harman made a polished speech, Tony Blair took a
final curtain call and graciously introduced his successor, who sent
members away with renewed hope, enthusiasm and determination."

Free entry to museums

Labour blogger Mike Ion has posted this entry on his blog. I cannot link to it because it came in an email to me and didnt include the web address, but you could find it if you tried.

A future Tory government would abolish free entry to Britain's' top museums and galleries and allow institutions to levy a charge for admission. Shadow Culture Secretary Hugo Swire says the Tory party will reverse automatic free admissions introduced by Labour and allow the attractions to restore entry charges. The policy on free admission to the nation's top museums and galleries was introduced by Labour in 1997 and has resulted in places like the Victoria and Albert Museum seeing an increase in visitor numbers of over 130%! A recent poll showed the measure, which costs the Government £40 million a year in subsidy, is the most popular policy introduced by Labour since its election in 1997. To sign the on-line petition opposing such a policy click here.

I do urge you to sign the petition. Didnt I read this week that National Museums in Liverpool have seen a 139% increase in visitors, was that this year? Certainly it was a wonderful fact and someone will doubtless look it up and post it in the comments box.

Anyway, free museums are wonderful, speaking as a regular attender of museums and art galleries, I am totally in favour.

Thank you Labour Party!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Annual General Meeting of the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority

Friday saw me at the AGM of the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority. I would be the first to admit that doesnt sound like much of a rave, but it was actually quite interesting.

In the first place it was interesting because although this cross-Merseyside body, made up of councillors from the five authorities, sees the LibDems holding five seats to Labour's four, they didnt bother to make a nomination for chair, deputy chair or any of the lead members' positions. Labour took all of them, I am now the lead member for Communications and PR, apparently I only get involved when the director has to make an Executive decision in that field and needs to run it past someone. I do have a lot of experience of both, and believe me, I know the fallout from bad news stories about bins and rubbish!

It is just another example of the LibDems shying away from anything that involves consensual politics. Fancy having the majority and sitting on your hands! Why bother putting names forward if you dont intend to play a part?

It was also interesting learning masses about the difference between collecting authorities and disposal authorities and lots about the different facilities ready and waiting for Liverpool City Council to ask to use. I am going to sign up to visits to various of them, to get the full picture about what happens to the contents of our bins after they have been picked up.

After the meeting we had a useful workshop on DEFRAs plans for waste management. I think that, although I was a bit reluctant when my name went forward, I am going to enjoy the work on this committee and it was good to spend time with colleagues from Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and the Wirral.

"Our take" on Liverpool's 800th birthday with local school children

One of the great benefits of Wendy having been elected to Kensington and Fairfield in May is that we can share some of the work and ensure that at least one of us can get to important meetings and events. We found out quite late about a public residents meeting on the Phythian on Thursday night and I had already accepted an invitation to the big children's show at the Olympia, just on the edge of the estate.

Wendy went to the meeting on behalf of us both and by all accounts it was lively and very well attended. They are proving very useful in giving the residents a chance to talk to various agencies about their concerns and to learn about key new intiatives in the area. Now we just need to set up a proper residents' committee to manage the administration and we can start fund-raising for events and schemes, really getting the show on the road.

And talking about shows, what a treat for me. I accepted the invite to a grand show, featuring local children from Kensington Infants and Juniors, New Park Primary and Phoenix Primary as well as Broadgreen High where a lot of our local kids attend. There were lots of other schools represented too - Bueberry Park, Broadgreen Primary, Lawrence road, Bluecoat, Knotty Ash and St Anne's Stanley.

The show was a look back at the 800 years of Liverpool's history, featuring sketches, music, singing and dancing about the granting of the charter by King John in 1207, the port of Liverpool, the plague, the slave trade, the Irish connections, Stephenson's Rocket (that would be George, not Robert Louis, twice in a fortnight I have heard people get that wrong), World War 2 and the blitz, Blood Brothers (which I have never heard of but Sharon tells me is a must see musical from the 1960s) Ken Dodd (full marks to the adorable Kensington Infants for their diddymen routine) and of course pop music and football.

I particularly enjoyed Cody McDowell who sang Amazing Grace solo and unaccompanied, she has a great voice, one to watch and still only year 9 at Broadgreen. Also The Big Dig by ARC and DRB - I dont know what the acronyms stand for but they were deaf kids signing songs and other kids in wheelchairs, wheeling dizzyingly across the stage in hard hats and tabards. An interesting political sketch with great comic timing. It was good to see a few boys dancing along with the girls in some of the class troupes too. It is not fair really though to single anyone out as every child gave a genuinely polished all round performance.

It was clearly a very professional enterprise, great costumes and make-up, good choreography and huge numbers of kids involved.

There was upwards of 500 parents, siblings and supporters in the theatre, I sat with Councillor Sharon Sullivan and her son Harry and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I only wish more councillors had been there to see what a great job our kids did and what a good time everyone had. Top marks to all concerned, and if the Culture Company made much bigger PR efforts about shows like these (which they supported) instead of promoting the flashy stuff with the big name celebs then they might not get such a bad press!

Home Start South Liverpool

Wendy and I met with Fiona from Home Start South Liverpool on Thursday.

She works for a charity who support families with children under the age of five in their homes. They work with trained volunteers from the community who work for three hours a week with their matched family, offering support, friendship and practical help.

Fiona wanted to talk to us about the possibility of setting up a project in Kensington and Fairfield, Picton and Wavertree. We were extremely enthusiastic, once they establish whether they can get the funding we will work closely with them to help identify both families in need and volunteers.

In the meantime though we have promised to put Fiona in touch with all sorts of people and organisations in our area so that she can start to build her networks.

Thi is something for us all to really look forward to.

Final Parks Scrutiny Panel meeting in Croxteth Hall

What a lovely setting for our final scrutiny panel meeting.

Croxteth Hall and Park, if you have never been, is a wonderful park with a grand hall. There are extensive grounds, a walled garden, a farm, 32 ponds, glasshouses housing some of the historical botanic collection and much more. Well worth a visit, I plan to return over the summer and spend at least half a day there, having a proper look round.

We had an interesting discussion with John Stonard from CABE Space who have some thoughtful views about how the built environment and green spaces and parks should interact. They are a national organisation who have the potential to very positively influence urban renewal.

The Parks and Lakes strategy document that we have been scrutinising since February has a lot to commend it and clearly fits in with CABE's views, which I was keen to ensure.

I wrote the draft final report and presented it to the committee on Wednesday night. Having agreed a few additions with attending members, I will be presenting the final report to the select committee next week. We have made over 20 recommendations covering a variety of important subjects, I cannot list them all here but have a look on the council website next week and you should hopefully find the full detailed report there.

But the main points were around tackling anti-social behaviour in parks (dogs, bikes, gangs), extending healthy activity in parks (sports equipment, tracks, walks etc) involving children more in the lives of parks with better and bigger playgrounds and an extension of the Junior Park Rangers scheme, tackling graffiti in parks, tree planting, bringing new blood into the parks staffing teams with apprentices and the long-term unemployed learning horticultural skills ready to take over when the experts inevitably retire, tackling derelict buildings close to parks, and lots more beside.

I closed the meeting by thanking the council staff who have supported the panel, they have done a really good job, not only helping us to find the right experts to present evidence to us, but hosting all of our meetings in parks across the city. I doubt they have had this much attention paid to them by existing members before and they really rose to the occasion.

This has been one of the most enjoyable and informative things that has happened to me since becoming a councillor, chairing this important scrutiny panel, I have felt my grandfather, great grandfather and both great uncles at my shoulder much of the time, they were all parks men and would have been animated and interested at every session I am sure.

Finally I am going to thank Councillor Josie Mullen at the select committee next week for having asked me to chair, a big surprise given it was my first year on the council and she was the LibDem chair of the Select committee. A truly non-partisan gesture.

Deane Road Jewish Cemetery restoration update

I had a really interesting meeting on Tuesday with Saul Marks, superintendent (is that the right title Saul?) of the Jewish cemetery on Deane Road in Kensington, Cath Taylor and Maria Curran (formerly Grimes, oft mentioned in this blog for her hard work) both from Kensington Regeration.

Saul has managed to get hold of all sorts of specialists to quote for works needed to restore the cemetery. We need builders to repoint and in some places rebuild the walls of the cemetery, the front gates and arch, which are grade 2 listed, need urgent work, the graves need the help of stonemasons, the grounds need clearing of weeds and overgrown plants - buddleia particularly which has pushed a lot of the stones over. We need some paint daubs cleaning off (30 year old graffiti in the main, some celebrating Sid Vicious and the rest some local youth called from memory "Chris"). We need the rubbish tip (now about 5 years old) clearing out and the gardens replanting.

There is a lot to do and we think it will come in at around £200,000 in the end. That doesnt sound so much when you see the huge scale of the job.

What made the meeting really interesting was when we got on to talking about funding options and one possibility is to raise some funds from living descendants of those buried there, which as I have blogged before, include the founders of H Samuel jewellers, Lewis's department store, Bahrend's Shipping and many local worthies of big importance in the Victorian era. Maria, Saul and I are all keen genealogists and work has already begun, finding these living relatives. We have identified at least two Sirs already - one of which Sir Nicholas Montagu, was the Chairman of the civil service department where I now work, a small world.

We are so looking forward to the restoration when Saul can take groups on guided tours but also I think we are looking forward, with the rest of the community volunteers who are involved but didnt happen to be at this particular meetings, to the task itself.

If you want to get involved, please let me know, this is really something very special

Friday, June 22, 2007

It is not too late

Message to Labour Party members

There are just four and a half hours left to vote in the Deputy Leadership Contest.

Click on the title of this entry and it will take you to the online voting facility.

The deadline for the three million union members with a vote has now passed, but ordinary party members have up until 5pm tonight, Friday 22nd June.

I am voting for Hazel Blears who sees the role of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party as a campaigning role, working with activists, local councillors, MPs and community representatives to deliver Labour councils and a Labour government. She is also keen on involving a wide range of people in agreeing on the future direction of policy, using local examples of best practice for instance to inform a national direction.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Daniel Kitson live at the Everyman as part of Liverpool's 2007 Comedy Festival

My head is full of lovely things to tell you about but it is nearly half past Midnight and with the best will in the world I cannot cover all of them, so I shall concentrate tonight on Daniel Kitson.

(ooh err missus, ed)

We shall I think draw a veil over the first half, but the second half was gold, pure gold. If you left half way through then shame on you!

(And if you were there then you will already be laughing)

He said that he had been described as the King of Student comedy, but looking round the theatre I reckon he is much more likely to be the King of Graduate comedy, but hey a King is a King, right Daniel?

I really enjoyed the Fireworks session. Lots of bells were ringing, lots of references connected with me. He talked about the lovely feeling he gets from watching fireworks and how it makes him feel good about the world and his place in it and how he savours the moment and stores it up ready for when he is old and withered in a home and has only those special moments to draw on.

I like fireworks too, but it is the pretty lights (ooooh............aaaah ed) rather than the bangs that I like. Ideally fireworks should be silent in my book, then I could stop flinching and wincing and simply enjoy.

He explored other things that make him feel as good, like paddling in the sea, eating in his favourite veggy restaurant (as long as no-one is smoking), being with his niece, listening to his ipod when it gets the shuffle right, walking on freshly laid snow

I wondered what makes me feel good, popping the cork on a bottle of champagne, cheering an election victory, that moment when your eyes meet his for the first time and inexplicably your heart pounds hard in your chest, getting in between fresh clean sheets, having my nephews run to me shouting for their Aunty LouLou.... It is a very emotive topic, well done to a comedic act for taking this on.

Colin's favourite was the Liverpool taxi driver story. Daniel always has a whinge about Liverpool taxi drivers when he comes over, he has been extremely badly served on many occasions and can go on for up to fifteen minutes when he gets into his stride on this topic. This time he started the story and got distracted and moved on to something else. As he announced an interval, a man in the audience shouted out that he had not finished his Liverpool Taxi Driver story, so he took a breath and said "I came out of Lime Street, got a taxi, and he was a dick....!"

Magnificent and very topical given the Echo's taxi coverage of late.

There was a tiny bit too much focus on the movements of members of the audience but a lot of that came out of the uncomfortability of being in a three quarter round auditorium, practice I am sure will make perfect, so come back please Daniel

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Saturday afternoon adventures

Colin and I had a busy Saturday afternoon. I had done my duty in the morning, leafleting in Anfield and then putting out some of Wendy's Thank You leaflets in Fairfield so it was time for some light relief.

Colin and I watched a bit of "Homes under the Hammer" which featured an empty falling-down house in Bootle, 4 College View, bought by a property developer, only to discover that it was very likely to be soon the subject of a CPO (although they didnt tell him that until he had spent £7k on work to make it water-proof, looks like Sefton BC is about as good as Liverpool CC when it comes to dereliction and demolition). He spent nearly £30k on it, buying it and starting to do it up, the council offered him £37k to sell it to them so they could knock it down. He was still deliberating as the programme ended. Why weren't the council at the auction themselves? They could have saved themselves £16K as it was sold initially for only £21k. Typical.

Anyway I had a fancy to drive up there and see if it was still there and if it had been redeveloped or not, but it was gone, probably in the last few weeks and months I would think. All around that street the demolition is live and in progress, they are replacing these big three storey family houses with town houses and apartments, I hope they let the former residents move back in and rebuild their shattered communities.

On the way up to Bootle I noticed some great street names, there were ones named after flowers, including the delightfully named Pansy Street, I just bet there are loads of macho men who have refused even to consider perfectly good family homes in that street. There were also some streets named after Shakespearean characters including Macbeth Street, which got me wondering. How would an actor who lived on that street be able to tell anyone his address?

On the way back we went to the summer fayre at St Sebastian's School in Fairfield, where I failed to win anything on the tombola but did buy some lovely greetings cards from the L'Arche stall, all of which were painted by the people who live with in their community in Lockerby Road and have learning disabilities. Great cards, I can definitely recommend them, one in particular was at least as good as some of the Modern Art in the Walker. Wendy and I will be sorting out a visit to meet everyone at L'Arche very soon I hope.

We then had a walk over to the Albert Dock and looked at the narrow boats who were having a bit of a festival. We were struck by how many of them had either a diamond, club or heart on their bows and stern, does anyone know what that is all about?

We walked along the river front past the front of the new Arena, I was disturbed to see how many broken panels are already boarded up, where the glass has presumably broken. I hope the architects did understand just how windy the river front is, I work there every day and I have never heard wind like the ones that can brew up there. It is a bit worrying that it is already showing signs of wear and tear and it is not even open yet.

It was a lovely afternoon but I made up for it today by putting in 7 hours on my council paperwork...

Christmas just came early

And so it was, in a moment of pure poetry, that Sam Tyler turned up on Doctor Who.

The only two TV programmes worth watching this year have found a way to cross over, one being the endlessly wonderful and successful Doctor Who and the other one having begun last year and ended this year, several series too soon (that would be Life on Mars to the uninitiated, in which case none of this will mean anything to you, so move on to the next entry).

A new timelord has turned up, it turned out the Face of Boe was right, the Doctor was not alone. The Master, Derek Jacobi (great casting), had been hiding as a human for a long time, just as the Doctor was doing last episode in England in 1913, and like the Doctor he was hiding so well that he had forgotten he was a timelord. A meeting with the Doctor slowly brought it back to him and he realised he too was a timelord. He broke into the TARDIS and was regenerated, and turned into John Timm (the actor who played Sam Tyler).

It was like winning the pools, only better.

I cannot wait until the second episode next week

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Two weeks of L6 and L7 (Kensington, Fairfield and Edge Hill) Radio in November

Tonight I went to a meeting called by Steve Faragher, Director of CIC (Community Interest Company) Kensington Vision.

He is putting together a bid for a radio station which will run for two weeks in our area in November 2007.

We met Carl Speare who works for Likely Alliance who have helped at least 20 organisations on Merseyside to host community radio.

He explained that L6 and L7 could have its own radio station through a community licence for a short period of time (up to 28 days) if we so willed it and could find the funds to support it. Steve said that he was aiming for a 14 day programme in 2007 and if it was successful then we would aim for a 28 day programme to follow in 2008 - Liverpool's European City of Culture Year.

Essentially from Carl's point of view, all we have to do as a community is host and run 72 two hour slots over two weeks, about anything we like, with an equal balance between talking and music, as long as there is no swearing, religion and party political content.

Steve explained the other condition, we have to find the money to host the licence. He wants to bolt on some extras if possible, like monthly talk-ins where we explore latest news in L6 and L7 and also a video of the exercise, but if we cannot manage those we certainly need to raise funds for the licence and the support of the exercise. He has already had a good financial contribution from Riverside/C7 Housing Association, I see one of my tasks as helping him find other sources.

So, if you fancy taking part in an L6 and L7 radio station for a fortnight in November, then please consider two things.
1. Will you, your mates or your organisation present a show (with 10 two hour training sessions over the preceeding 10 weeks) and will you work on a script with Carl (because you cannot do it without one)
2. Will you help find some more money to make this happen?

If we get 2007 right then 2008 can be twice as good again. Let me know of your interest and I will pass your details onto Steve and Carl.

This could be massive, it is all down to us to make it so

June's Full Council Meeting

I could spend several paragraphs berating the LibDems for their rubbish handling of the city's economy and budgets but it would only repeat everything that has already been in the papers.
I could say I agreed with John Coyne's every word (the Green councillor) when he said that now is the time to re-examine the expenditure on events next year that we already know we cannot afford, but nobody would be listening. (Except perhaps for Larry Neild who made the same point in the Daily Post this week, he talks a lot of sense most of the time in my view). I could say that I am absolutely behind our leader, Joe Anderson (who woke me up this morning on the Today Programme on Radio 4, but that might not want to be a claim he wishes to embrace) in his resignation from the Culture Company Board.

However, I am not in band-wagon mode, so I wont say any of that, even though I do mean all of it.

What I will say is what I said in the Town Hall chamber last night, on a completely different topic. We were given the results of last year's performance indicators, which are all mixed in together and make very difficult reading, one minute you are reading about how many people visited our parks, the next item is about pregnant school girls and the one after that about homelessness. Not an easy read...

The PIs on Looked After Children (kids in care) were shocking and diabolical. Last year we had 49 kids facing key stage 3 in English and Maths. The council was hoping that 40% of them would achieve a good result, that is around 20 kids. The reality was that only 8 of them did well. The other 12, indeed the other 41, were low achievers.

As I said to the depleted chamber (they all rush off for coffee, self-congratulatory chats and recriminations after big agenda items), these kids, hundreds of them of all ages, are actually our own children. We as councillors are their corporate parents. Whether they like it or not, they have 90 mums and dads, as well as their own. I don't have any kids, which is the subject of a whole book, not a blog entry, but there is neither time enough nor space, so these kids have to be my concern.

We have failed them as an authority and I was trying to convince the other 89 councillors that we need to take this seriously.

I dont know their names and addresses and although I am their corporate mum I don't suppose it is even right that I should, but that doesn't and shouldn't mean that I don't care about them.

We must get on top of this. Being a kid in care is bad enough and hard enough without us corporate parents ignoring their poor educational achievement and our responsibility for that. I want to do everything in my power for "my" kids, and if that means banging the drum in council meetings and making sure that other councillors realise that our kids deserve better than our neglect and low levels of interest, then I will do it!

Jane Corbett's surprise 50th birthday party

Jane Corbett was 50 in May, I know she doesn't look it or act it, but the facts will out. So her local Everton LP branch organised a surprise party for her this week.

It was great, good buffet, lots of dancing (you know me, first up to dance and last to sit down) and great company.

A lovely evening, I know Jane enjoyed it and Sharon Sullivan was fab singing an old Patsy Cline favourite of mine, "Crazy", she did a very good rendition.

Happy Birthday Jane, here's to the next 50 years! What a wonderful representative of our party, absolutely dedicated to the cause, you are one in a million and we all wish there were a million more like you.

Edge Hill Festival

I wont say lots about this but suffice it to say it was a great event. Held on Edge Hill station at the site that METAL have now leased as an arts centre - I am sure they call it something different but that is essentially what it will be - this community festival with the theme of Migration was fantastic.

There were about 20 stalls, each one fascinating in its own right. There were artists, photographers, jewellers, foodies, musicians, refugee action, all sorts. There was a big truck that is making its way round European cities talking about and examining migration and asking for items to be included in future truck stops. I donated a passport photo of my bessie mate Colin (who was with me) and on the back I confirmed it was a true likeness - passports are after all essential to migration, and I donated last year's student union discount card from the Liverpool College where I was studying HR. It had the text repeated in Welsh and I pointed out to the truck's organiser that Welsh people settled in Liverpool in big numbers.

I bought some great greetings cards from the photgrapher Jon D Nash of the statues on Crosby beach - my most favourite place on earth at the moment. I sent one to my friends Susan, Tom and Dylan who have moved to a new house in York, one to Jane Corbett, Labour Councillor for Everton for her 50th birthday, one to an Asylum Seeker friend in prison and my dad is getting one for Father's Day, the fifth I may well frame.

There were two food stalls. One was run by three African women in full costume, I tried to take their photo for the blog but the batteries in the camera chose this moment to run out, grrrr. The other was a vegetarian stall where I had a lovely veggie chilli wrap.

There was music and poetry from the tent all day, we stayed about two hours and really enjoyed the contributions.

I had my sketch done for the princely sum of £1 and took part in a questionnaire about my own family's migration patterns - I was proud to explain 500 years of movement albeit only around England, I hope it helps a bit, I know it wasnt as glamorous as moving from Nigeria or the Congo to Liverpool, but it might still contribute a bit to a fascinating project.

I am told by Colette and Ian, the principle movers behind METAL that this will be an annual event from now on, I do hope so, it will certainly go in my calendar of "must attend" events.

Friday, June 08, 2007

More about Crosby Beach

The first time I went to the beach at Crosby to see the Iron Men I was struck by the sea-washed rubble at the back of the beach.

Huge piles of building material and rubble has been dumped between the beach and the sand-dunes to prevent the sea from wearing the dunes away.

These bricks and stone pillars and columns have been eroded over the years and now take the shape of bread rolls and loafs, they are a work of art all on their own. Next time you go up there, go and have a look and see for yourself, they are beautiful.

Showing Liverpool Off part two

On Sunday morning we drove over to the Albert Dock and had a walk round and a bit of a shop. We were going to walk through to the Pier Head but now that the building work has started you cannot go over the bridge through the dock. We wandered in the Tate and were fascinated by a strange art book in Japanese with a man who has his head imposed on to all sorts of photographs. Very weird. I showed Cath the statue of Billy Fury which is now accessible once again, having been moved from the Museum of Liverpool Life and the statue of the family getting ready to emigrate, sitting on their suitcases.

We went in the Heritage shop and guess what, they are still not selling any 800th birthday souvenirs, it makes me so cross. We had a coffee in the Pan Am Club and watched the beautiful people walk by before waving to the people on the yellow duckmarine.

A quick drive then round to the three graces and another walk with the dog. Looking back at the city from the side of the Liver Building gives a fascinating vista of the old and the new, Our Lady and St Nicholas, the parish church of Liverpool, side by side with new hotels, insurance buildings, the Unity building with the strange glass box on the top, cranes, work in progress... I promised her a trip on the world's most famous ferry next time she comes over.

We then went up to the Walker Gallery and had a quick look round as a bit of a taster before she comes back with artist partner Steve. A quick diversion to see the Super Lambanana and a drive round Sefton Park before going home for afternoon tea.

I am confident she went away with a good image of Liverpool - that is what being an Ambassador for Liverpool is all about!

Showing Liverpool off

My mate Cath from Holmfirth came to visit last weekend.

It was great. One of the benefits of having only lived here for a few years is that I still have friends visiting who have not been here before so I can act as a real Ambassador and show the city off with pride.

She came over on Saturday lunch time after I had been leafleting (and getting sun burnt) in Knotty Ash. We had lunch and then I drove her round Kensington and Fairfield so she could see all the places she had only previously read about on this blog. Then we went over to Another Place - Anthony Gormley's statues on Crosby beach, which is one of my favourite places to take visitors.

We walked on the beach with the dog (and took her photo with one of the statues) and had an ice cream in the hot sun. You can also see the wind turbines from the beach which will be turned on in about a month's time according to yesterday's paper. When you go out walking with a dog everyone stops to talk to you and chat, it's amazing what an ice breaker they are.

We came home for a few hours and watched Doctor Who which I was amazed to learn she had never seen before, I think I have converted her.

We then went to the Chung Ku on Riverside Road for a lovely meal. I do love the food in there but I also love the restaurant itself, the great view of the river and the English name tags all the waiters have. It is quite expensive but I can definitely recommend it for a special occasion.

Edge Hill Festival tomorrow - Saturday 9th June

I hope I will see you at the Edge Hill festival tomorrow. There will be art, music, drama, comedy, dancing, food and drink, all day from 10am - 6pm.

It is being organised by METAL the art organisation in Kensington based on Marmaduke Street, they have taken a long lease at the Edge Hill Railway Station, developing an art centre where the festival will be staged.

Do come!

Girls' night out at the Pan Am club

When you get to 41 you are far too old to be a "girl" but nonetheless when I go out with the women I met on my HR course last year, a "girls' night out" is what we always call it.

There are five of us, ranging from 22 to 41, and we meet about every two months to catch up. It is only 12 months since we graduated from our course and yet so much has happened in that time. It is great to catch up and we always enjoy getting together.

The meal was good, it ended up at about £25 per head, we had two courses, I had a tortilla with salad and oriental pork strips and then coq au vin, which was very tasty and the chef was able to cope with Shaz's strange meal request (she is pregnant, say no more).

We did get in a mess with the parking fees for the carpark though.

We arrived at Albert Dock at 6.30, there is a £1.50 fee for the hour up to 7pm and then it changes to £2 for a flat fee until the morning. We had to run outside at 7 and feed the meter again. I think the carpark people need to get their act together, it is not very user friendly. But otherwise I can recommend the Pan Am.

Cheque from auctioneers

I know some of you have been waiting to hear how much I got for selling my pottery at Cato Crane's Auction.

It started off okay, they sold for £23.00

However they then charged me £6.76 commission and £9.00 "lot" charge and £.58 insurance plus £1.68 VAT, so the cheque they have sent me is for £4.98

There are several lessons to be learnt here - first of all stop watching cash in the attic, it just doesnt work like that, secondly, take up car booting instead and thirdly, encourage your children to be auctioneers when they grow up so that you can live in the manner to which you would like to become accustomed!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Labour Party Leadership Hustings in Liverpool

Tonight we had the hustings for the Labour Party Leader and Deputy Leader positions.

These two posts will be voted for by individual Labour Party members and individual Trade Union members who pay the political levy. One member One vote - no block votes, thanks to John Smith and John Prescott.

It is a daunting responsibility for a Labour Party member, choosing our future leaders, because we are also choosing the country's leaders.

Gordon Brown was in the end the only nomination for Party Leader, anyone could have put their name forward, they only had to find 45 members of Parliament to support them. As it turned out 91.5% of the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party - Labour Members of Parliament) supported him and the other 8.5% could not coalesce around any other candidate. He also received the support of hundreds of Constituency Labour Parties and Trade Unions and other affiliated organisations.

Let there be no doubt that the reason that no other candidate is standing in this election for theLeadership of our Party is because everyone who had a vote or a choice, chose him, overwhelmingly. If that is not a mandate then I dont know what is.

Tonight Gordon addressed us and answered lots of questions from this audience of North West LP members at Hope in Everton on Shaw Street. What particularly moved me was when he talked about why he had joined the Labour Party and what his motivators were. Essentially he said that he believed that the Labour Party was there for the people in need, the people in pain, the people who needed support, for the many and not the few and that we all wanted to change the world. It is why I joined the party, to defend and to fight for those who cannot easily do it for themselves, but it is an old-fashioned view that you dont get to hear all that often. Those of us who are socialists because we are christians - particularly chapel goers - will have found that this really resonated. It was reassuring to know that our future leader is there, not for the rich and the priveliged but for the whole of society and in particular those who need a strong voice at the centre of power.

We then moved on, after a break for a change of backdrop from "Gordon Brown for Britain" to a Liverpool corporate purple one about "the future", to hear from the six challengers for Deputy.

We had a series of Q&As and then each was given two minutes to say why they thought they should be leader.

They were asked what had proved a difficult question in previous hustings - Iraq was unanimously chosen. Harriet Harman said that with hindsight she would have voted differently, but then as a favourite country singer of mine once sang "Hindsight is 20:20". She said that if she had known that there were after all no weapons of mass destruction (WMD), she would not have voted for war, but of course this belies the fact that if it had been generally known that there were no WMD, there would have been no UN mandates and no decision to go to war, so that was a silly answer. That is like me saying that if I had known that my husband was a confirmed chronic alcoholic I would not have married him, QED as they say.

They were asked what questions had dominated that one might not have hitherto anticipated - social housing and affordable housing topped the poll.

I am pleased beyond all measure that this is now the biggest issue facing the politicians - not because I want it to be a problem, but because it IS a problem, I have people queuing in my surgery week after week looking for a safe, secure and warm home, and yet there is nowhere for them to live. It is vital to all our people that this comes straight to the top of the domestic agenda and I thank LP members all over the country for making sure that our Deputy Leader candidates understand this.

We all have our own personal political driver, Tony Blair said that for him it was Education (times 3), Gordon has pointed to the NHS (although he has added housing as top of the new challenges), and mine has always been housing.

I think it was Maslow who identified, in his pyramid of needs, that before we can worry about our health, education, or economic viability we have to have somewhere safe and secure and warm to live. I have been guided by that for 20 years since I first studied it. At the most basic level you cannot even dream of studying or going to work if you have nowhere to safely leave your possessions during the day and nowhere to get a good night's sleep.

They were asked what they thought the role of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party should look like. This was fascinating because they did not agree. As an HR professional I found it very surprising that there was not a job description already in place. It seemed that they were each describing the post they would want to occupy rather than one that was already agreed.

Anyway, Hazel, John and Hilary were all supporting a role that would be a link between the party and the leader whereas Alan, Peter and Harriet were supporting a cabinet role where they would be portfolio holders within the cabinet and speaking on behalf of the party therein.

I am on the side of those who say that there are already enough portfolio holders (cabinet members), what we need in this role is a campaigner, literally knocking on doors and speaking at and listening to feedback from members' meetings and meetings of the public up and down the country, and then feeding the results back to the party leader.

I am not a political historian but I have it in mind that the role of Deputy Prime Minister was invented by John Major for Michael Heseltine, which I think must mean that John Prescott was only the second DPM we have ever had. I am happy to be corrected. The point I am trying to make is that the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is a job in itself, to deputise for the Leader and to be a conduit between the Leader and the Party. It does not have to be a position for the general public to be concerned about, it does not have to be a Deputy Prime Minister's job too, unless Gordon Brown decides to join these two jobs together, which although TB did, is by no means a dead cert for the future.

So, what I think I am saying is that while the Leader of the Labour Party will be the Prime Minister and therefore of interest to the wider public, the Deputy Leadership should be seen as an internal post that is primarily related only to those of us who pay the membership each year.

The other point I would want to make is that if we do not win a general election in the future then there will not be a cabinet to be part of, or a government to be at the centre of, we have to win the fourth term first! I think the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party should focus on winning the next term, and the one after that and so on, and not focus on how that role should link with a government term that we should never be complacent about.

I cannot recall what the other questions were about but can say that my own personal choices would have been about race relations, about crime and anti-social behaviour and about lifting the people of the whole world out of poverty, poor health, infant mortality and no free education.
So, who am I voting for? I am voting for Hazel, because she is a passionate campaigner, because she has humble roots, because she is a northerner, because she made good in her career and studying, because she is a woman, because she above all others understands that without the support of Joe Public it is all a giant irrelevance! Interestingly, she had applause after every contribution but I did not spot this with other candidates in such a clear way.

I dont know who to give my second vote to - for those who are not aware and did not receive their ballot paper today, we are using the single transferable vote method which means that you should choose your first candidate by voting 1 next to their name, then your second choice with a 2 and so on. You cannot hurt your first choice by voting for other candidates in order behind them because your second choice only comes in to play when your first choice has already been eliminated.

I wont be voting for Harriet. Hilary Benn is a man who is admired by millions, in this country and in others for his passion for the third world. Jon Cruddas gave answers that in my view were too focussed on Dagenham and not wide enough to embrace the other kinds of societies in the rest of the country, although much was to be applauded. Peter Hain has wonderful credentials, fighting apartheid and the Nazis and doing the business in Northern Ireland but then Alan Johnson also has great, yet very different credentials, having risen from a life of poverty and difficulty and lots of people I respect are backing him - like Jane K and Suzanne for instance. I think on balance that Hain has had a glorious past that has perhaps lost some of its power and passion in recent years whereas Johnson has more recently fought for what he continues to believe in. It is funny how the hardest decision has been between three and four and not the other positions.

I think I have decided now, I shall vote


The ballot paper came today and I have now made up my mind, what about you?

Photo from the hustings, me, Jane Kennedy MP, my mates Claire Wilner (of Witches of Eastwick fame) and Bora Balci (member of our sister party in Turkey and now a member of Picton LP)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Asylum Monologues is coming to Liverpool

'This is the thing that the British people don't understand. They think we came here just because we want to live here. We fled our countries because there are problems. That's why we came here.'

Asylum Monologues is an account of the UK's asylum system, told first hand by the people who have experienced it.

Screened free for one night only in 12 cities from Glasgow to Exeter on 21st June, 2007.

In Liverpool, the performance will be held at:

Metropolitan Cathedral Crypt Concert Hall (entrance on Brownlow Hill), L3 5TQ at
18.30, 21st June.
Contact Person: Lila Khodja Contact Tel: 0151 702 6313 / 0784 990 4998.
More information at:

Free refreshments, wine and snacks will be available.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Latest module on Councillorship course

I went yesterday to the launch of the latest module in the Councillorship course. It might take 4 years to complete, in conjunction with the University of Chester, but results in a certificate of Higher Education.

I have done the media studies module and had excellent feedback, I have promised to do my best to repeat that this time!

This time we are studying community cohesion, essentially it is about how we bring together different racial groups, different nationalities, different levels of disability, different sexes, ages and sexualities within our wards and tailor our services to suit them.

It is going to be an exciting challenge. I have already asked some of our new African residents if they would like our literature in French, for many their first language, but so far they tend to prefer to receive it in English. I must consult further. Otherwise I look forward to learning a lot about bringing our services to all the community. We have until the end of September to complete the paperwork, expect a busy summer from me!

Carbon Monoxide Awareness

I had a really good meeting on Friday in Runcorn with Lynn Griffiths of Carbon Monoxide Awareness.

Their aims are to

1. Alert the general public to be safe and aware of the dangers of CO
2. Alert and train the health professionals to diagnose this poison
3. Encourage and train the pathologists to record the poison as cause of death where appropriate
4. Find victims and their families and bring them together and support them
5. Assess the current levels of danger within the country's housing stock.

I have pledged to help them all I can, not just because of the death of my dear fiance Michael Price but also because since the story has been publicised in Liverpool, other victims or their families have come forward to me for help.

The Fairfield pilot project has now been launched and people are queuing up to take detectors but we still need to get awareness right out there, any help gratefully received.

Parks Scrutiny Panel - Stanley Park - Major Ventures

It was a beautifully warm and sunny afternoon as the Parks Scrutiny Panel toured round Stanley Park. I have never walked right through the park before and was very impressed with the council's plans to improve the historic park and the glasshouse, terrace and sandstone pavillions.

We were shown the part of the park which LFC plan on building on, it is always a shame to build on parks but I was a little reassured by the fact that the bit they want to build on is a field, rather than trees, planting, lakes or paths. Apparently the millions that will be spent on restoring the old and formal parts of the park depend on the club's involvement. A very tricky situation.

After the tour we looked at the major ventures and plans in various parks; The Otterspool, Jericho Lane, riverside park area which looks really good, plans for Sefton Park and bids for major works in Princes Park and Newsham Park. In a few years time we should have some parks to be really proud of.

I also asked where my proposals were for a flower bed celebration of the 800th birthday in St John's, I am told they are happening this month all being well. I was asked about publicity. I said I dont mind who gets in the photo of the opening as long as I am not cut out of it altogether, it was my suggestion after all and my urging that Glendale take this on. It is all also in private celebration of my Grandfather and Great Grandfather and two Great Uncles who all planted flower beds for the Corporation, albeit in different cities.

I think flower displays are much loved by the people and we should bring them back as soon as we can!