Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Operation Black Vote in Liverpool

Liverpool City Council has volunteered to engage in a special project with Operation Black Vote to encourage more "people of colour" (the Director's phrase) from black and ethnic minority backgrounds to become councillors.

They are looking for ten councillors to agree to have someone from the black community to shadow them for 12 weeks.

I have put my name forward and we had our initial meeting on Monday.

The objective of the Councillor Shadowing Scheme is to ensure that Liverpool City Council increases its numbers of Black and other minority ethnic (BME) councillors and increases BME engagement with the Council in all areas and at all levels of local governance.

Recruitment of interested BME men and women begins next month, then there will be a twinning process to match them with the councillor volunteers and the scheme will be officially launched and commence in May.

Apparently there are more volunteer councillors than the scheme can support, so I hope I get picked to take part. I go to lots of African events in Kensington, our biggest BME group, and I know how passionate many of the people I meet there are about making a difference. I would love to be a conduit to making that happen.

National Holocaust Memorial Day event in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

I was so proud of Liverpool on Sunday.

We hosted the national Holocaust Memorial Day event in the Philharmonic Hall.

It was incredibly moving.

There was quite naturally a big focus on the Jewish Holocaust but also commemorations for the Roma, the people of African countries suffering conflicts today, the events in Bosnia and Serbia, Rwanda and indeed ongoing persecution in our country, like the story of 14 year old Johnny Delaney, kicked to death in Ellesmere Port just for being a traveller.

I wont list the participants or their contributions because it has been done elsewhere, but they were all marvellous.

I came away considerably humbled by the whole event.

The only light moment for me came when I spotted someone sitting in a box near to the stage who looked vaguely familiar. I sat for a while trying to think where I knew him from before realising that he was no less than the Arch Bishop of Canterbury!

"Senior" party in St Sebs club

Before we went to the National Holocaust event in town, Wendy and I popped in the "Senior" party in St Sebs club held for residents of the Elm Park area. We couldn't stay long, just long enough to pick up a few items of casework, have a drink and a chat with a few residents, but it was good to see them all set for an afternoon's socialising in company with their neighbours.

They are all always very welcoming, it's a pleasure to go to their events.

Isaac is 4

Happy Birthday Isaac, your 4th birthday party was great.

I particularly enjoyed the jelly (in a proper rabbit mould too) and ice-cream, the blue dinosaur cake and the game of musical statues.

I'm glad you liked your jigsaw and I hope the animal quoit set will be just the thing to keep you entertained in the summer.

You are such a lovely boy, I am glad to be near enough to see you regularly.

Congolese Tragedies event

Liam, Wendy and I were pleased to attend the Congolese Tragedies event at Kensington CP School on Saturday evening.

There were some very interesting contributions - art, a photography exhibition, artefacts, singing, acting and speeches, to explain the three tragedies that have faced the Congo over the centuries.

1. The slave trade - Yambi Africa had a very moving photo exhibition illustrating the slave trade, featuring locations in Congo from where slaves had been taken and where they were put on ships to be transported.

2. The decimation of the country by King Leopold II of Belgium. As the BBC relates here "he turned his "Congo Free State" into a massive labour camp, made a fortune for himself from the harvest of its wild rubber, and contributed in a large way to the death of perhaps 10 million innocent people."

3. This leads to the country's third tragedy. As the BBC further explains, "Legalized robbery enforced by violence", as Leopold's reign was described at the time, has remained, more or less, the template by which Congo's rulers have governed ever since. Meanwhile Congo's soldiers have never moved away from the role allocated to them by Leopold - as a force to coerce, torment and rape an unarmed civilian population."

It is believed that perhaps a further 10 million people have been killed since 1996 when the current conflicts began.

We heard a speech from the Congolese Association which was a message they are sending to the Government and to the establishment more generally, detailing the current state of affairs in the Congo and asking for ten points of action. I hope it is very well received.

Apparently the Congo is about the size of Western Europe, I had no idea it was so big. It is rich in minerals, diamonds, great wealth lies under the soil. I guess that is what a lot of the fighting is about, it usually is.

And the most poignant part of the evening for me was watching actors perform a sketch set in a pub in Kensington where local residents questioned a newly arrived asylum seeker over a few drinks, accusing him of getting in first for housing and having lots of money and a mobile phone. All the usual BNP rhetoric. The Congolese actor playing the asylum seeker explained how he was surviving on £25 and living in a flat in a house that had been derelict and that nobody wanted to live in.

I was really miserable that people from a country who had faced such terrible tragedies could face such suspicion and lack of good will here. I know it goes on, of course I do, but to see it enacted by people for whom it is an actual reality was very discomforting. It will stay with me for a long time.

Wendy makes her maiden speech

Councillor Wendy Simon, my co-councillor in Kensington and Fairfield made history tonight.

Not only did she make her maiden speech - on a motion about social care for adults - but she also made a second speech to support my motion on dog wardens.

I bet nobody ever made two maiden speeches in one meeting before

She was great; poised, eloquent, thoughtful and measured in both.

I was so proud of her. She is already renowned as a councillor who most intently scrutinises policy in select committees. Now she will be free to pop up and interject and comment in debates in the chamber without the worry of getting the maiden speech out of the way.

Beware Liberal Democrats!

Dog warden motion voted down by LibDems

I am genuinely surprised that the LibDems voted down my dog warden motion at full council tonight.

I deliberately didnt write anything contentious or rude in it, that anyone could object to.

I guess they just dont like to support anything I propose in case it gives me or our local Labour team any credence at election time.

They amended my motion so that all but the first two words were deleted and replaced with a decidedly odd statement about being angry at having to take to over the responsibility for dangerous dogs, which I am sure as I can be will stay with the police. They wouldnt let civilians deal with rabid pitbulls, surely? Certainly John Kelly, Exec Director told our select committee meeting earlier this month that it did not apply to dangerous dogs.

So they dont even know their facts!

Anyway I remain convinced that this city needs more dog wardens to enforce dog fouling and to gather up stray dogs. I think this will now become a city-wide issue, one that all the people of Liverpool can get behind, because we all hate to see our streets and parks in such a state.

I have set up a Facebook group, join it if you agree with me that dog fouling is a menace we need to tackle - I expect Labour will want to launch a petition to this end too.

Engaging the YouTube generation (2)

I am linking to the earlier entry from here as I dont want it to be missed or passed over by people who might like to comment on it.

If you do wish to comment, can you please do so on the original entry.

Thanks very much

District Auditor says Liverpool worst council in country for financial management

Warren Bradley's interview with Roger Phillips yesterday on BBC Radio Merseyside. My comments in itallics


RP This is not a good report for us is it Warren?

WB Well Roger we’ve got to put it into perspective really haven’t we and remember where Liverpool was and that’s not thinking back 10 years. Liverpool has come an awful long way. The people of Liverpool were asking for lower Council Tax and the Liberal Democrats have delivered that and they also wanted better services and you look at the services that are now delivered by Liverpool City Council. If we look at the most vulnerable either elderly or the Children’s Services the social care we are now delivering at a level that Liverpool has never delivered before (absolutely true, never in the history of the city have elderly people's services been delivered at a level quite this low. Home helps laid off, people left with a poor service, prices increased, homes shut, day centres shut....) We also look at the bread and butter your schools, your sports centres, your libraries (like the one in Lister Drive? Shut now for 12 months), One Stop Shops in communities (like the one in Kensington that we never got because the then Cllr Richard Marbrow siphoned the monies off to build the 08 place tourist information office in town), our parks, we’ve got 13 green flag parks.

It’s like a new home to me when you get an old dilapidated derelict building you’ve got to bring it up to a standard and I think Liverpool City Council under the Liberal Democrats have certainly done that (although not in Prescot Road or Prescot Drive where they have left people living in dangerous dereliction for 6 years now) and I am certain. If we did a survey of people in the City do you want Liverpool City Council to sit on £20m worth of reserves or do you want the City Council delivering front line services that affect the most vulnerable and people’s lives in the City. I think that they would vote with their feet and say that we support the policies of Liverpool City Council. (I think if you put that choice to them they would say the LibDems do not deliver such services, and it is to be wished that they did).

We’ve got to look at the financial regulations put in by Government and if you want my opinion about this Roger it is purely political.

RP Well come on you know the Audit Commission is not a political body

WB Well with respect Roger and I would beg to differ on that

This is exactly the same line they take about the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol calling it "Labour nationally" and any other organisation that dares to criticise them. That they are political appointees. This is terribly damaging to the concept of democracy and governance, but hey, they are Liberal Democrats, what interest do they have in that? I wonder why the Audit Commission don't try to sue them or report them to the Standards Board for this type of comment.

RP Well how can it be a political it’s an independent organisation?

WB We can say everything is independent to a certain extent but you know you look at what we’ve got at the moment in Liverpool and we’re delivering top quality services….

Roger should have kept on a bit more with this, there is no way on earth that John Humphries would have let WB get away with this.

In 2003 the Liberal Democrats' "End of Year Report" said of Liverpool "An independent report has rated Liverpool as a "good local authority" which has made significant improvement in services in the last year". It explains how the Audit Commission ranks councils according to how well they are run and says "it is based upon a thorough and in-depth assessment of each of the council's 'core' services.". So when the score is a good one, the Audit Commission are "independent" and "thorough" with "in-depth assessments" and when it is a bad score the Audit Commission are "purely political".

RP But the problem with this is that you’ve got an overall score rating of 2 which was adequate performance into 05, overall score in 06 was 2 which is adequate performance. This year it is down to 1 below minimum requirements inadequate performance.

WB Based around financial regulations…

RP Yes I’m talking about the financial…..

WB .. Laid down by government. I mean that’s what you’ve got to remember Don’t try and muddy the waters and say oh this is about Liverpool City Council and their overall performance. It’s not. (Oh really? How funny, I thought that was EXACTLY what it was about.) You look at the issue that we’ve done about achievements. Liverpool scoring 3-4 on achievement at the moment through the Audit Commission.

RP I didn’t know that.

WB and we do seem to always go to the negatives when we’re looking for something like this.

RP The District Auditor was pretty negative about you wasn’t he and…

WB No, I have got to say Roger I would love to have £50m in reserves. I would also love not to have to put additions of £7m into adult social care and £2-3m into children’s social care. The facts are we have got to do that because of the pressures that are on Liverpool at the moment.

RP So are other Councils….

WB I’m not willing as Leader of this Council to take away care to the most vulnerable to allow it to sit in reserve. I am not willing to do that and I will go to the stake on that (that should draw the crowds) the people of the City. Liverpool now is only one of a handful of Councils up and down the country that is providing moderate care to the most vulnerable people in the City. Now to give people an idea of what moderate care is that is home care. These people who’ve got no family to support them and require a visit in the morning or a visit in the evening to make sure they’re ok to help them to take the pills, to make sure that they’ve got the food. Most Councils up and down this country have removed that care. Liverpool City Council is still allowing our most vulnerable people our sort of care. Now is that wrong, is that wrong?

RP Now no one would argue that’s wrong but everyone. But many people are affected by housing. Housing is really poor isn’t it. I mean you are so poor you’ve had to hand it over to a different group to run it.

WB Well with respect Roger, with respect, you’ve got to know what the Housing Corporation have done and in partnership with the Government again it’s easy to say it’s the Council, in partnership with the Government we’ve tackled head on through the Pathfinder areas of the inner core of the City some of the housing inefficiencies of the City. That hasn’t happened over the last five years that’s happened over 30 or 40 years. The problems in Norris Green in housing were prevalent 30 or 40 years ago and weren’t tackled. As an Authority we’ve challenged what wasn’t tackled and we’ve challenged it head on and I opened a couple of weeks ago with Flo Clucas and Marilyn Fielding with Cobalt Housing the first phase of Norris Green. We’ve transformed that area and its got houses for sale and social housing in Norris Green that people are seeking to live in now. We’ve got in a core Edge Hill, Kensington, Kirkdale the same issues that have been there for 30 or 40 years that we’re tackling now hand in hand with the Government. I’m not taking the credit for it and the Government isn’t. We’ve got a schools’ programme that is second to none. Liverpool’s young people are now achieving at the national average. I want it higher than national average to give new opportunity but again I’ll say I’m not going to suit accountants’ financial regulations in London and leave £millions sitting in reserve while we have still got the challenges Liverpool has got and I think people you know.

RP Do you think it was a mistake to keep Council Tax down or freeze it over the past few years?

WB Well isn’t it ironic Roger how last week John Healey said how Liverpool is charging £101 a head..

RP Because its inefficiencies….

WB Well we have taken £150m worth of inefficiencies out of our budget over the last 10 years. We’ve kept Council tax down which is exactly what Government policy is and is exactly what John Healey is saying. Councillor Joe Anderson is saying something completely different to the people of Liverpool that he will put taxes up to build reserves to put in reserve well again this administration this Lib Dem administration is not going to tax for the sake of taxing to leave money sitting in reserve. We will build up the reserves over a period of years and then we will be able to tackle some of the other issues that we’ve got to do. We recognise the health inequalities. To improve health inequalities we’ve got to have a real stable economy offering real opportunity and raising the aspirations in them poorer communities. You cannot do that leaving millions and millions of pounds laying in reserves and this administration will continue the robust financial management that we’ve done. We’ll carry on delivering…

RP If it was that robust we wouldn’t have this problem of £20m overdrawn on Capital of Culture.

WB Roger, lets put things into hindsight (Yes good idea Warren, lets put the whole lot of you into hindsight, as far behind us as possible). We are still delivering front line services. We are still…

RP It’s about £20m overall that we’re short this year – now that’s not robust management

WB But Roger we are going through a budget setting process. Every Local Authority up and down the country is in the same process as us. I remember reading about Wirral being £50m short. Other Local Authorities. I meet the core city leaders who are £40-£50m short exactly the same as Liverpool . And let’s not forget I haven’t come on here to knock the Government I’ve come on here to say that I believe we’ve got a robust financial programme in place that is going to deal with the shortfall. We’ve delivered year on year but I’ll say again I am not going to allow millions and millions of pounds to lay in reserve. Cut front line services to the most vulnerable and then say that’s acceptable. Nor as Leader of this Council am I going to allow Council Tax to go through the roof again which will drive the inability to bring further investment into this City. While the Lib Dems have been in control we’ve brought Council Tax down, we’ve brought renewed confidence and we’ve brought real investment that will bring opportunities to the most vulnerable and I think that is the most important and I think the people of this City will stand full square with us on that. I’m proud of what we’ve delivered in this City over the last 10 years and Capital of Culture is part of that."

I cannot go on, I have had to go off and take a cold bath as my blood pressure has soared reading this terrible drivel. I am also concerned that it went uninterrupted, had Roger gone off for a cold bath too?

How can this man, this party, be allowed to govern our city for another moment?

Roll on May!

Shamless spin as City of Culture Company Chief Exec is paid off

The front page of the Liverpool Daily Post today carries the headline and main story "City's ex-culture chief wins £230,000 pay-off" and the sub headline is "Harborow lands golden handshake as auditor brands Liverpool 'wasteful'".

It is about Jason Harborow finalising the details of his severage package, as he leaves his post of City of Culture Company (an arm of the city council) Chief Executive in only the first month of the year.

You will recall that Council leader Warren Bradley, LibDem and his colleague Councillor Mike Storey have both been reported to the Standards Board for allegedly plotting to have him sacked following the cancellation of the Mathew Street Festival.

It was believed by employment lawyers that their behaviour gave Jason a very strong case should he decide to take the council to an Employment Tribunal and so they have settled out of court.

What fascinated me more though was the council press release that was sent out. I reproduce it in full here for its sheer breathtaking and shamless spin value.

"Jason Harborow, Chief Executive of Liverpool Culture Company, has announced today that he is stepping down from his post.

He has successfully steered the Culture Company from its inception to readiness, including raising private sponsorship funding, and the delivery of the much acclaimed artistic programme for 08.

Mr Harborow said: “I have fulfilled my pledge to the people of Liverpool; my job is done, and it is time now for a new challenge”.

He is moving on to pursue new business interests and  is to step down from his post at the end of the month.

He went on to say: " I have very much enjoyed my time in Liverpool. It has been a tremendous challenge but we are there. 2008 will be the beginning of the future for Liverpool and its entire people, and I am grateful that I was able to play a role in that. Other personal business opportunities have opened up for me next year and I wish to concentrate my efforts on these.  I have therefore taken the decision to leave now, confident that  the programme for 2008 will make it the most successful Capital of Culture ever. I am leaving behind a strong organisation moving forwards into its delivery role."

Colin Hilton, Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council, said: ”Jason has made a huge contribution to the city over the last four years in leading the team that has developed such a strong programme for 2008. He brought flair and a commercial edge to our work and will always be remembered for his enthusiasm and ability to engage the support of the most top level people across sport, government, the arts and other institutions.”

Bryan Gray, Chairman of the Culture Company Board, said: "I would like to thank Jason for his contribution to the success of the Capital of Culture over the last few years.  I am sure that everyone associated with the Liverpool Culture Company will join with me in sending best wishes to Jason for his future."

I see the quotes all come from officers, I wonder what Bradley's response would have been?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Engaging the YouTube generation

Following the successful introduction of my paper on blogging at a conference in London, I have now been asked to host a workshop by another organisation at a different event in London in March.

The audience is targeted at ...
■ Elected members
■ Cabinet members
■ LA Chief executives
■ Policy makers & Planners
■ Community development professionals
■ Regeneration professionals
■ IT Managers
■ Youth workers

The conference is advertised as follows "Whilst communities are becoming more connected, many public agencies, councillors, managers and community development professionals are being left behind, or are found playing around on the edges of technology. The great opportunity is to use new technological platforms to get closer to people; voters; interest groups; and communities. The opportunity to connect and importantly to engage people in real issues in real time.

You may have mastered email, have a website and even do some online booking
and payments. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg. It is transactional. The real
advances will be made by public agencies which use new platforms to make technology transformational.

By embracing technologies such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube; blogging;
podcasting; and even using avatars and virtual worlds you can become more and
more connected and engaged with issues that concern your communities. You can
turn apathy into action, gather insight rather than just information, connect rather
than just consult.

Achieving this transformation means that it is the people closest to communities,
councillors, managers and officials who need to embrace these opportunities and
grab them from the bowels of the IT department. This event will show you how."

I promise not to mention bowels in my workshop, but other than that, I will be focussing on how we can use blogs as a campaigning tool, a means of promoting community engagement and activity and the good things going on in our area, with a bit of politicking thrown in for good measure.

I thought it might be interesting to put this post up and to invite comments. I quite like the idea of examining this blog entry in the workshop itself.

100 people a day currently read this blog, most of them are local Liverpool people, many work as council officers, or work in other partnerships and agencies and many come for an update on community news. Others that read the blog are Labour politicians or opposition politicians, looking for any political news. Some people are local residents who are active in their local community and enjoy reading very local stories. Some people come because they share an interest in cultural activities (art, parks, exhibitions etc) and can reasonably expect me to have commented on these kind of subjects. And of course, some of the visitors are my friends and family members who just like to know what I am up to.

Why do you read my blog? What kind of entries do you particularly look for? How did you find out about the blog? What do you think I should be saying to my audience in March?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Louise's motions to Full Council January 2008 (2)


This Council notes with interest the news that stray dogs will be the responsibility of Liverpool City Council from April.

Consequently Council believe the new powers require the authority to increase the number of dog wardens employed. Given that the Council currently employs only one or two dog wardens in Liverpool, this totally inadequate coverage will need to be enhanced.

In particular Council are aware that there is a rising and serious problem associated with dog fouling that has been reported in wards right across the city.

Council supports any and all efforts to tackle this by enforcing existing legislation and obliging dog owners to pick up after their dogs and not to allow them to roam on their own.

Council firmly believes that dog fouling, which is a major social menace, could be brought under control by firm and decisive action, including surveillance, steep fines with "naming and shaming" publicity, the provision of dog bins, free bags and any other methods designed to provide either carrot or stick approaches.

(If Standing Orders are not suspended the motion will be referred to the Executive Member for Neighbourhoods and Housing for consideration and response)

Louise's motions to Full Council January 2008 (1)

These are the two motions I am submitting to council this month.


Council notes that National Salt Awareness Week 2008 runs from 28 January to 3 February 2008 and that this year it will focus on the impact of salt on children's health.

Research has shown that reducing children's salt intake by half, results in immediate falls in blood pressure, which in turn could lead to major reductions in the risk of developing stroke, heart attacks and heart failure later in life. It is well established that the higher the blood pressure in childhood, the higher the blood pressure in adulthood. Therefore, anything that lowers blood pressure in children is likely to reduce the number of people developing high blood pressure later in life.

A high salt intake has also been linked to adverse effects such as: -

failure to reach peak bone mass predisposing to osteoporosis;
aggravation of asthma;
predisposition to stomach cancer; and
it could also influence the development of obesity.

During this awareness week Council requests that the Executive Member for Children’s Services ensures that it: -

publicises that children should eat even less salt than adults;
shows the large amounts of salt children could be consuming just through eating everyday foods (4.9g for 4-6 year olds which is 1.9g more than their recommended maximum upper limit of 3g);
highlights where the salt comes from in children's diets; and
provides practical information to parents and carers on how to reduce the level of salt their children eat.

Council also calls upon the Executive Member for Children's Services to report in due course on the efforts of Liverpool City Council to reduce the amount of salt in school meals and its efforts to promote the benefits of a limited salt intake to Liverpool's parents.

(If Standing Orders are not suspended the motion will be referred to the Executive Member for Children’s Services for consideration and response)

One of Liverpool's Forgotten Burial Grounds

This article, written by E A Greene appeared in the Express on July 12th 1933.

I recreate it here for interest.

"Let us talk of graves," as Hamlet said.

A dull subject, perhaps, but a disused cemetery for instance may become an object of deep historical interest.

In a district which, a hundred years ago, was described as a quiet rural hamlet, surrounded by farmhouses, meadows, and market gardens, but which now possesses several cinemas, and whose previous calm is broken by the continuous clanging of numerous tram cars, the old Hebrew Congregation of Liverpool consecrated their third "House of Life".

A few yards from the junction of Kensington and Sheil Road is the old-world residential thoroughfare Deane Road, Fairfield, previously known as Dean Street, Edge Hill and "at the time of the opening of this burial ground about 1835, Fairfield" to quote Mr Philip Ettinger, "was just what its name implies, fields, fair and flowery; a hamlet and rural spot far removed from the city's noise and bustle. We can easily understand harking back to those far off days - days of slow locomotion and easy stages - how it must have seemed, particularly on such mournful occasions as were unfortunately inevitable, a wearisome journey from the city."

At the present day one would pass this "God's acres" (in this case exactly one acre), almost without noticing it, the stone facade of the entrance standing well back from the highway with tall railings and trees screening it from the public view.

Except for the fact that graven over the gate-way are the words "Here the weary are at rest" in English and in Hebrew, "After life's fitful fever they sleep well", it would pass for the entrance to an old manor house, as no sign of tombstones can be seen from the pavement. But if one peers through the old rusty gables, a distant view of a number of head stones can be seen.

The burial ground itself, which once stood entirely alone, is now completely surrounded by houses, built so closely to the high boundary walls, that at no point can any evidence of the cemetery's existence be seen by the passer-by.

How well do Gray's immortal lines apply here:

"Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
or flattery sooth the dull cold ear of death,
perhaps in this neglected spot is laid,
some heart once pregnant with celestial fire."

According to Mr Philip Ettinger in his "Hope Place in Liverpool Jewry", "In 1840 there was in Liverpool and its outskirts few plots of ground consecrated for Jewish burials. Of these the old Hebrew Congregation possessed three and the earliest was the ground at the rear of the dwelling house which had been used as a Synagogue in Upper Frederick Street.

This ground was opened in 1789 and closed in ----, it was only a small plot, actually the garden ---- of the Synagogue premises."

------- his memorials speaks of an earlier cemetery in Derby Street off Whitechapel but little is known of this plot and there are certainly no records today dealing with its history.

Mr Benas in his records of "Jews of Liverpool" quotes Picton thus "Hard by on the south side of Cumberland Street, next to Derby Street stood a small Jewish Synagogue said to have been built by some German Jews in the 18th Century. There must have been a small cemetery attached as fragments of tombstones with Hewbrew inscriptions have been found in the neighbourhood."

But to return to Deane Road. On entering the portals, one finds many fine monuments bearing respected names associated with the city's industries, some of whom it is recorded were born in far-off lands. There are many beautiful epitaphs; some as simple as "At Rest", others eulogistic as:
"Mark the perfect man
and behold the upright
For the end of that man
is Peace" - Psalm 37 verse 37

Another in memory of one who "By industry and integrity, acquired considerable wealth, a portion of which he bequeathed to the Hebrew endowed schools....his ardent desire was the advancement of his Jewish fellow-citizens, combined with his earnest hope that those who, like hinmself, had been successful in life, would also devote a share of their means to equally laudable objects."

And this revered woman should surely rest well, with these expressions of affection engraved on the stone marking the resting place of her mortal remains: "An attached wife and indulgent mother, her admirable disposition endeared her alike to family and friends. This monument is erected by her surviving children as a tribute of filial affection and a record of their irreparable loss."

The inscriptions are in both Hebrew and English and one outstanding epitaph is very striking. It reads "Here lie the mortal remains of Joshua Van Oven, who during a long life rendered eminent services to the Jewish nation. He died on the eighth day of Sharat February 5598 aged 72 years and was buried on the 11th of the same month with great honour by the congregation of Liverpool by whom this tablet is erected to his memory."

A rather unusual inscription runs "Claud Myers of Chicago who died on board the SS Majestic, June 22nd 1891.

...The old Majestic...the wonder ship of our be found mentioned in a retreat like a memory.

Deane Road Cemetery was officially closed for general burial in 1904 but there has been several interments since, one as recently as three or four years ago.

Judging by the general appearance of the neighbourhood, one may hazard a guess that the mortal remains of the "Weary who are at rest" here will be permitted to sojourn in their secluded retreat for many years to come.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

'Ello, 'Ello, 'Ello

I have this evening been to an all-party meeting at St Anne's Street Police Station in Liverpool.

It was a heady meeting attended by no less than the following people:

Chief Superintendent Steve Watson - new to our area and upon whose direction the meeting was called, to introduce himself to the local councillors in our patch in Liverpool North

Superintendent Ian Pilling, his number two in our area.

Chief Inspector Paul White (who was Inspector at Tuebrook when I was first elected, congratulations to him for his promotion)

Inspector Dave Charnock of our neighbourhood, based in Tuebrook police station who is a fantastic locally entrenched officer and another Dave, whose surname I did not get who is the Inspector based in Eaton Road police station over in West Derby.

A fine group of men.

What a shame they are all men though, isn't it about time some women came up through the ranks? Or do you have to be called "Dave" to get anywhere in the Police? She wonders

Anyway we had the meeting and the following messages came through - and after discussion not one of these facts was contradicted by a Labour, LibDem or Liberal Councillor in the Liverpool North area - I think it is important to say that.

1. There are now 32 fewer victims of crime PER DAY in Liverpool North since last year.

2. There has been a dramatic decrease in crime in Liverpool North.

3. Burglary remains the number one most important crime in the eyes of the police (and the public) in the Liverpool North area.

4. There has been a 40% reduction in anti-social behaviour in the area.

On behalf of us all I made the following points

a. Congratulations to Paul White for his promotion (Hope the Rugby injuries clear up soon, that is one hell of a black eye and mangled ear you have there Paul)

b. Kensington New Deal Police Team are more than worthy of their regional award as the best police team in the area/region. I cannot quite recall the geography of their award, but if every area had a Sergeant Joyce, or a Tony or a George or a Shelly etc etc then we would all be very happy crime-free citizens.

c. The burglary figures for our area which show only a tiny reduction compared to the massive reductions for the Eaton Road Police Station area are pretty much down to the activities of one young man from Kenny whose name I know but wont use. Other than him and his mates burglary has gone down in our area too.

d. The police did great work last week during RESPECT week and I thanked them for that

e. Inspector Charnock used to be able to provide us and residents with a detailed report of his officers' work in the area on a day by day basis. Since the Force had decided to re-examine the legality of this exercise, these reports have not been forthcoming and have been sadly missed. They promised to get on to this and sort it out forthwith.

f. I asked about the possibility of a section 30 notice - for the dispersment of large groups o young people in and around the Newsham Park area. Inspector Charnock has agreed to discuss this with me on a one-to-one.

It was a good meeting.

Festa Volante 3rd Feb 2008

Please note an email I have received today from Gerald Murphy/Denise Tambourini of Liverpolitalia

"Ciao everyone,
You have probably already heard through the media etc. that there is an event organised for Sunday 3rd February 1.00 - 7.00 p.m.

Festa Volante is a tribute day dedicated to Dom volante (Liverpool Italian boxer that our organisation is dedicated to). There will be lots going on. Films: Gardens of Stone and Shadow Boxing, a talk by Frank Carlyle, guest speakers, music etc. and a light buffet.

If you are interested in booking places can you email back please and let us know how many.

A group of us are off to Ostra Vetere in Italy in a few hours time; it would be good if we had an idea of numbers when we return on the 29th Jan.

We hope you can make it; it's promising to be a fantastic day!

Tickets are £5 each. However, if you are a fully paid up member of Liverpolitalia the cost is £3.

Denise Tambourini"

Their email address is liverpolitalia at

New Job

I started my great new job this week.

I wont tell you anything about it, my rule on the blog has always been never to mention where I work or who for or any of those details.

But suffice it to say that I am a very happy woman with a great new job, working for a company in Kensington (very handy for meetings and surgeries and so on), working for people I really respect, doing work I love, and being financially able to do it part-time so there is lots of time for campaigning and ward-work.

I am also thinking about setting myself up (very) part-time as a consultant so will be meeting with the guy from Elect that I met at RESPECT week last week, to talk about setting up a business really soon. I only want to work about 8 hours a week in this capacity but it will be worth doing a business plan anyway.

This entry is for the benefit of family and friends, not for political opponents or residents or public sector workers, although as with all things, you are welcome to read and digest.

My Mum told me she felt that 42 was a very special age for her, I hope 42 will be a very special age for me too, it has certainly proved to be thus far and this new job is a real example of that.

Rhys Stephan Jones is 18, who would have thought it

I dont suppose he will ever read this, unless he googles his own name, but my mate Rhys Stephan Jones was 18 on Monday.

I remember so clearly how wonderful it was when he was born, son of my dear friends Leigh and Steve, I cannot imagine how time has moved on so far.

At Christmas I asked his Mum and sister Ellice Louise (guess where that middle name came from?) what I should get him. They said lego.

I said he was surely too old for lego.

They said he loves it so much that even though he is a hip and happening dude at art college and all that (my translation, I am sure they didnt use any of those words), he would still be chuffed.

So I bought him the biggest box I could find and sent it off in the post.

But that is it now big guy, you are officially an adult so no more pampering from LouLou!

I still can't believe it is 18 years since you burped gently into Granddad Ron's video camera, or since we had your christening party at Grandma Barbara's.

I feel very old. Love you loads, happy birthday Rhys.

European Elections panel interviews for prospective candidates

I spent the whole of Sunday with a couple of colleagues from Bootle, Manchester and Chester interviewing wannabe Labour candidates in the European elections.

Some very good candidates, I really enjoyed it. Particularly impressive were a woman from Shipley who comes from a famous political family, a guy from Workington (which has produced good people before as we know), a young woman with a number 10 background and a bloke from Stoke.

I won't name names.

I think I have said before, I always get a good feeling from being on panel interviews. Seeing the quality of some of the people coming forward entirely restores my faith in the democratic process.

I look forward to seeing some of these people on ballot papers in the future.

Loose tooth

I forgot to tell you that I had that loose tooth out just before Christmas.

The pain was just too much, I was taking six pain killers a day, ridiculous.

So I decided that no matter how hard it would be to eat with it missing (it was a 7), I would just have to bite the bullet - or not ever again, as the case may be.

Anyway, I popped into my dentist who is 100 yards from my front door one morning in mid December. She saw me straight away, injected me with novocaine, or whatever it is, and whipped the tooth out, all within about 40 mins. Oh and I am an NHS patient by the way. And I joined my practice in 2004. So dont believe all the dentistry horror stories you read in LibDem leaflets!

It didn't hurt, even after the injection wore off and it turns out I wasn't using it to chew anyway as it has made no difference to me.

So hurrahs all round - and thanks to those people like my mate Cath who encouraged me to go for it, after my last post. You were right, I should have taken action earlier.

Update on the CO detectors project in Kensington and Fairfield

This message comes courtesy of Maria Curran at Kensington Regeneration.

"The following is the information I have on the monoxide installation exercise from last week's Respect programme.

147 were delivered to homes in the K&F area, all were installed either wall mounted or free standing with safety advice given to each household.

Still another 150 to be delivered but this will be ongoing over the next 6 weeks at Neighbourhood Assemblies. I've sent letters out to the residents in Fairfield who asked for an alarm but never took me up on them during Respect week. I'll be at the assembly tomorrow to give out further alarms in Fairfield.

Raising Awareness

As you know the project was a multi agency approach from beginning to end
PCSO's assisted me in the development stages by pushing this intiative with all residents they made contact with.

Kensington's HEAT collated a list of vulnerable residents and passed these to me.

Community 7 Wardens also collated names, as did I through attending meetings in the last 10 months.


During Respect week I was able to gain support from the Fire Safety Network (volunteers) and over the 4 days I had 5 of their volunteers.

4 x C7 wardens spent 2 full days with the project

I gained support from Cllrs Baldock and Wendy Simon for 2 days and their colleague Liam Robinson.

My own colleagues provided valuable support also.

I am also very pleased that Venture Housing are looking at running with a project as well and I will be forwarding as much information as I can to Ben at Venture so that residents on the other side of Kensington and Prescot Road can reap the rewards.

I understand from Sharon at the FSN that the volunteers had a great time and really enjoyed the experience. So as far as I can see only good has come out of all the hard work.

I can also say that so far 2 residents ( Fairfield and Kensington Fields) have reported that they believe their fires were faulty and using the alarms should provide some comfort in case there is a CO problem."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Kensington and Fairfield Respect Week photos

Full set of photos can be viewed here

The boy with the thorn in his side?

Just picked this story up from my old mate Mark Martin through Facebook.

Thanks to NME for exposing "Just call me Dave's" plan to recreate The Smiths’ iconic photograph of the band outside Salford Lads’ Club with him in it. Apparently protesters in Tory-free Manchester were not best pleased and chased him off.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Congolese interpretation of the Holocaust Remembrance Events

Congolese Holocaust Event
26th January 2008

A variety show of presentations and play acting based on the 3 Congolese tragedies which interpret the Congolese Holocaust. These performances will be fringed by a photographic and artistic exhibitions that remembers the African tradition, culture and the Slave Trade.

Congolese Holocaust in three parts:

Slave trade
The 16th-18th Centuries saw decimation of Congolese communities and villages with the removal of thousands of Congolese to become slaves in the Americas. Between a quarter and a half died during the trips from the Congolese interior to the coast; during the Middle Passage across the Atlantic, mainly to Brazil; and during early settlement in the Americas.

Holocaust of King Leopold’s Congo “Free” State
During the late 1800s and beginning of the 20th Century, millions of Congolese died or were victims of mutilation and other suffering as a result of the Congo being exploited by King Leopold of Belgium, who was given the Congo as a personal chattel by the European powers. Thanks to a Merseyside and North Wales-based politician, Edmund Morel, who succeeded in persuading the Western powers to have the Congo Free State taken away from King Leopold and ceded to the Belgium Government as a colony.

Tragedy of the Congo current civil war, 1997- present
Between 3 and 5 million Congolese died during the Congolese civil war that took place from 1997 until 2002, but which has recently flared up again. This conflict was partly a knock-on effect of the 1994 Rwandan genocide but has other origins as well in a complex country the size of Western Europe. As a result, Congolese starting fleeing their country at the end of the 90s and were given haven in places like Kensington, Liverpool, where they have settled.

For this reason, the Kensington-based and Congolese-led arts group, Yambi Africa, and one of their playwright members, have developed performances around this Diaspora story and are offering them on the Congolese Holocaust Memorial Day on January the 26th, 2008 in Kensington Junior School, Brae School, L7, off Holt Road.

4.00 -5.00 pm: Photographic & Artistic Exhibition
5.00 – 6.00 pm: Food
6.00 – 8.00 pm: Presentations play acting & music
8.00 – 9.00 pm: more performances

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Edge Lane Murals

I have borrowed a camera so here are a few photos I have taken of some of the artwork on houses on Edge Lane, Kensington I was asking for your comments on.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A couple more Holocaust memorial events for information

Holocaust Memorial Day - email from the Yellow House for information.

Kensington based Yellow House have been working with young people throughout Europe for nearly 20 years, working with groups from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, Estonia, Finland.

Yellow House Founder George Mc Kane and his Polish wife Gosia have created a mini United Nations at their Cultural Centre in Kensington, Liverpool with young people from Turkey, Spain. Sweden, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Poland, Latvia and Germany living at their House in The (He) Art of Kensington over the past 2 years mixing and sharing cultural similarities and differences with local young people on a daily basis.

In October 2007 Yellow House linked up with a group of young people from Krakow, Poland and visited the death camp at Auschwitz together. The experience was harrowing, humbling and hopefully lifelong. As part of that trip, the young people had the privilege to meet Josef Roslowski, a 14-year-old freedom fighter in The Warsaw Uprising, and survivor of Auschwitz and Mathausen.

As part of the Yellow House programme for Holocaust Memorial Day Josef will visit Liverpool to talk about his experiences in the death camps as a young boy. He will be at The Picton Room Central Library at 2.00pm on 26th January 2008.

Photographs and poetry by the young people from Liverpool and Krakow recalling their memories of the trip to Auschwitz will be on display at Liverpool Town Hall from 21st January and will be on banners on the outside of St. Luke's Church from 25th January 2008

51 young people from Israel, Poland and Georgia have been invited by Yellow House to Liverpool from 21st January and will collaborate with local young people for a performance at The Picton Room Central Library on Friday 25th January at 2.00pm.

George Mc Kane, Yellow House - "This is such a tremendous experience not only for the young people to visit Liverpool but also for our young people and for Liverpool. It is also a true honour to be able to welcome Josef, a truly inspirational human being and a great speaker, full of humour and bravery. Yellow House are proud and privileged to be part of Holocaust Memorial Day and this work confirms our continuing work in Europe, our commitment to making Liverpool a true European Cultural Centre and our belief in creating new work that has an importance in this world and is art that has strong content, meaning and enables young people the opportunity to show their skills, their work and their feelings. Yellow House is at the centre of truly innovative work with young people and has been for more than 25 years."

Below are some comments from the young people of Yellow House about their visit to Auschwitz - they are available to meet the press - contact via Yellow House:

"My experience at the concentration camp was so emotional and sad. I couldn't speak I was that horrified. I can't imagine myself or anybody else I know being in that hell on earth. I can't stop thinking about it and how it made me feel. I can't get this one picture out of my head. It was a girl of my age. She was crying. They shaved all of her hair off. That girl could've been me for all I know. Words cannot describe the feelings at Auschwitz, only that it sends chills up and down my spine every time I think about it or think about all those people who died so that people like me could have the freedom to do things." Charlotte (aged 13)

"I was really scared to visit this place because of the terrible things that I had been told about by people. But when I entered AUSCHWITZ I got a lot more scared. This place was so heartbreaking the way these people were killed like they were food in a factory and they got burned alive, thousands at a time. It was life changing for me because of the level of nasty, savaging, hatred that I saw just at the camp and in the pictures. I couldn?t begin to imagine what it would have been like to actually be there at the time. It was eye opening because I thought this was inhumane. I felt so guilty of what humans are capable of." Christian (aged 14)

"If you don't know your history, you will live through it again. Never forget it. Thank you to all those heroes who were murdered so I can live in peace today. I am embarrassed to live without you. Never forget the real heroes, the real saviours. But also think about those who survived the slaughter and horror to lose friends and family. Let us spread the message If you don't know your history, you will live through it again. You can read, watch or listen about the horrors but the only experts are those who were murdered. Never again can this happen. Only those who died know the truth. Take responsibility, stand up against discrimination and what is wrong. You won't be a hero like those already, but can pass the word of these heroes. It is amazing how a so-called human can kill, no, MURDER such good humans. Everyone is equal. Never take dignity away from people no matter what. Yet remember the love. People made love in the horror, people were born in the horror and people laughed and joked to survive in the horror. The people who were harmed in the horror are the only people who can tell the real stories, those who hear them can tell others of what they hear. When you visit a camp where such horror occurred, don?t try to imagine you were there, because you weren't. Think about those who deserve the respect. I was sick, scared and shocked. But most importantly I was embarrassed and thankful. I am embarrassed that one who calls himself a human can do this to another human." Liam (Aged 15)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Letter to PM @ 5pm on BBC Radio 4

I sent this letter today to the PM programme on Radio 4

"I have been very disappointed, reading the comments on the BBC "Have your Say" website about Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture this year.

Contributors have suggested that Liverpool is not worthy of the title, I can only assume they have never been here.

I made a positive choice to move to Liverpool in 2004 and I rejoice in that decision every day.

Are Radio 4 listeners aware that within the UK, Liverpool has more art galleries than anywhere outside London, also its fair share of National Museums?

We have the Liverpool Tate, the National Maritime Museum, the National Slavery Museum, the Walker Art Gallery and many more.

We have iconic buildings, particularly St George's Hall built in the 1840s by Harvey Elmes, also the Albert Dock, risen pheonix-like from the ashes and re-opened by the Prince of Wales twenty years ago and of course our World Heritage Site river front. How many World Heritage Sites do you think there are in the UK?

Liverpool is no "Johnny come Lately" either like many of our nation's cities, it was afforded its charter by King John in 1207 and celebrated its 800th birthday last year.

We have not one but two iconic cathedrals, the Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ (built over 70 years during the 20th century) which is currently showing the Ann Franks exhibition as part of the UK's annual National Holocaust remembrance events and the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, Christ the King completed in 1967.

Last year we hosted the prestigious Turner Prize, the first time outside of London.

This summer the first ever Gustav Klimt exhibition in the UK will be shown in the Liverpool Tate gallery.

Last weekend Liverpool's new Arena hosted the City of Culture opening celebrations and the world famous Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the equally world famous Vasily Petrenko lead the event, from first act to last.

I could go on defending this most magnificent of cities, but I don’t really see why I should.

Liverpool doesn’t need me to stand up for it, it is already proud of its place on the world's stage and those who snigger expose only their own ignorance about the cultural opportunities we have to offer.

Yes the city has been through hard times but it has risen from the ashes and is mighty again.

But don’t take my word for it, come and have a look for yourself - "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" might learn something.

PS and I didn’t even have to mention the Beatles or pop music in any of that.

A busy day on the RESPECT trail

I got right into the RESPECT programme for Kensington and Fairfield today.

At 10am I was in Kensington Infants, helping our Park Rangers (that's Park Rangers, rather than the Power Rangers the littlies were hoping for) to make bird feeders with the nursery class. We started with a pine cone, tied a piece of string round it, dragged it through lard and dipped it in a box of bird seed, et la voila!

The Park Rangers were fantastic, perhaps they really are Power Rangers. They really engaged the group of young children, who can be very easily diverted and lose concentration. They showed them pictures of birds and explained how hard it is in winter for the birds to find any food to eat, then we all got our hands very mucky with lard and seeds. I particularly liked the idea that a pine cone covered in lard looks like a Christmas tree covered in snow - and it certainly does.

We made a horrible mess with the seeds so I found a carpet sweeper and cleaned up a bit, we had to leave the school looking tidy, especially as children spend so much of their school day sitting cross-legged on the floor.

From there I went to the council caravan in Lidl car park, where I joined two ladies from the Personal Health Trainer team, one from Bully Busters and another from Kensington Regen. There are photos but I have not taken them off the camera yet. We saw 100 people over the course of the day, and gave out bags and bags of free stuff and useful leaflets.

Saul Marks came over to the caravan so I asked him for a quick tour round the Jewish Cemetery on Deane Road to see the good work that the YOT have been doing in there this week. We have our working group meeting tomorrow night where hopefully we can get an update on our lottery bid hopes. Also I have a few leads on some more volunteers - we desperately need more, if you can help tear up weeds and scythe down brambles and ivy, in a very good cause, please get in touch.

I nipped over to the Job Bank in Wavertree to drop Jane off and took a bit of time to meet Maria Curran and the volunteers from the Fire Service Network who have been distributing (finally, hurrah) our Carbon Monoxide detectors, purchased by Kensington Regeneration and C7 in our pilot project. I fully expect some alarms to go off before the week is over, I think we are putting about 400 out this week, and at least one of them will have been installed in a house with a faulty appliance.

If we save only one life then all of our efforts will have been worth it.

It is 9 years this week since we buried my fiance, Michael Price, after he was accidentally poisoned by his fire through Carbon Monoxide detectors. It has taken over a year to get the detectors, find people who want them and find people to help install them, but it is really worthwhile and I feel I am starting to make an impact about something I am so passionate about.

I have thanked Maria and Kensington Regeneration and C7 before, but let me just do it again here, on behalf of Michael's family and friends, and the man in Old Swan I visited last week who has been poisoned at work, and the man in Edge Hill who has been poisoned at home, and everyone at Carbon Monoxide Awareness. You have really thrown yourselves into this and we are all incredibly thankful.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Kenny Litter Picking

In between all the Capital of Culture festivities over the weekend, my Mum and Step-Dad Roger joined me, Wendy and Liam for a litter picking session on the streets of Kensington.

You see life when you come to visit me!

As part of the launch of Respect week, we joined Venture Housing staff on Boaler Street at 11am on Saturday and picked litter in the Molyneux area, accompanied by staff from Rodney Housing, volunteer residents and local school kids and volunteers from the Youth Offending Team.

There were a few items of concern - a knife hidden behind a cable box, empty bottles of methadone and some surprising items of clothing, which highlighted some of the difficulties the area experiences. But the majority of rubbish, as you would expect, related to food, drink and smoking related litter.

I took the decision to spend nearly half an hour clearing out the mountains of litter behind the walls of a double fronted property. I know the council staff would not clear it up as it was not on the public highway and clearly the residents of the property were happy to see it piling up, but people walking by agreed with me that the area would be much better with it gone.

Those people who deliver telephone directories have got some thinking to do too. Wendy and I found about half a dozen, dirty, wet phone books tucked behind front walls.

Lots of people stopped to chat and were appreciative of our work, and yes of course they are right, the council tax should pay for this service, but that doesn't mean we cannot muck in too (literally as it happens).

A big thank you to all the volunteers who entered into the litter pick with real enthusiasm, the difference we made in St Michael's Grove and Onslow Road alone were well worth it. You were all great.

Job opportunities in retail in Liverpool One

Do you live in Kensington or Fairfield and would like a job in retail in the new Liverpool One development in town?

On Friday there is a recruitment drive at the Kensington Life Bank on Quorn Street from 9am, running all day, with guaranteed interviews for the unemployed.

Get along and have a chat.

Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony

I attended a very special ceremony today in St John's Gardens, in the Peace Garden, behind St George's Hall.

An all-faith congregation, albeit with the majority being from the City's Jewish population, listened intently and in silent and private tears as a recording was played of the first official and safe Jewish religious ceremony to be held in Germany in a decade, during the liberation of Auschwitz.

The scratchy recording of survivors struggling to sing the prayers but giving it their all, was the most moving thing I think I have ever heard.

Civic leaders, led by the Lord Mayor and joined by the Chief of Police, the Recorder and other dignatories, with representatives of the Jewish community, accompanied by music from King David's School Orchestra, laid white roses at the Holocaust Remembrance monument which was created on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

As we waited in the queue to process to the ceremony, Councillors talked amongst ourselves about the very few people in Europe who stood up to the Nazis and helped the persecuted to escape. We talked about the personal strength and commitment that the people who managed the Kindertransport for instance had shown, and others who worked hard to protect and save individual Jews from certain death. We wondered whether we would have had the strength and commitment to put "doing the right thing" before personal and family safety.

It is a fact that most people, the vast majority of the populations of Europe, stood by. This makes the actions of those who did do the right thing so much more important. We will never know whether we would have resisted, however much we hope that we would have found a way, thank God we have never been put to that particular test and thank God that when the moment came there were those who stepped up and were counted.

Treasures exhibition at St George's Hall

Having seen reference to the Treasures exhibition during Friday's night celebration, Mum, Roger and I decided to go on Saturday to see the boxes for ourselves in St George's Hall on the third floor.

If you have not been then can I suggest you make that visit before the exhibition ends.

Liverpool people have been invited to make up a box, of their own design (a shoe box covered with paper was the preferred size) and fill it with the things that they treasure about their lives in Liverpool.

It was very moving as we crouched down and rifled through other people's special memories. Almost everyone chose their family as one of the three things they treasured, but others included their football team, chocolate, computer games, their christening gown, photos of their ancestors, certificates for swimming, John Lennon Airport, Beatles albums, postcards from the Western Front....

It felt very strange to have such private thoughts available for viewing, but also a real privilege.

Thank you so much to everyone for sharing their treasures (and for those of you outsiders who believe that all Scousers are scally thieves, as far as I could see, nothing was missing from any of the boxes I looked in).

Go and see it for yourselves.

Liverpool - European City of Culture 2008 - has finally arrived

Mum and Roger came to stay for the weekend and we played a full part in the celebrations to welcome the arrival of the City of Culture 2008 in Liverpool.

On Friday night we went to St George's Hall Plateau where we watched the "people's opening". It was exciting, people standing on the tops of high buildings right across the square, back-lit, playing instruments, fireworks, music, children, choirs, big stars and stars yet to come. We really enjoyed listening to the comments of people round us, some positive, some negative, they had turned out in their thousands. One report said 50,000 were there, most of which were standing in front of me I think!

There were people dangling from ropes, spinning on trapezes, balancing on ledges (including some of the audience, half way up the Empire theatre, clinging on for dear life, thank heavens nobody was hurt), it was amazing stuff. The sound quality wasnt very good unfortunately which I suppose is a problem about being outside. We could not always hear what was being said by way of explanation. But leaving that aside it was very enjoyable.

Saturday night saw us at the new Arena for the Liverpool Musical.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, every minute of it. The Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra were magnificent, sitting high up in the Arena on platforms suspended above each other. The bands were great, the films were great, the lights were great. I could have done without pictures of Derek Hatton or Maggie Thatcher but other than that it would be hard to find fault. And of course because we were indoors the sound was great too.

I enjoyed the Farm best along with Ringo and Dave Stewart and the whole audience singing "With a little help from my friends" and "Power to the People". I am afraid Ringo's new single does not really do it for me, I am not sure either that it is for him to say that "Liverpool I never let you down". But it was really special to see a Beatle, a real Beatle, on a Liverpool stage, singing Beatles songs, on such an auspicious occasion - and he was my fave Beatle all those years ago.

Well done organisers

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kensington and Fairfield RESPECT week

Respect, what a powerful word.

Give respect, get respect

That is what the logo says

And next week, the Labour Government initiative comes to Kensington and Fairfield in Liverpool.

Imagine that.

Yesterday I went to a meeting at the Lifebank on Quorn Street, Kensington (hats off to my mate Cath for saying that only in Liverpool could we name a street after a vegetarian meat product, and she lives half a mile from Upperthong and Netherthong, what does she know?).

Anyway, there must have been 50 people there, all officers from agencies working for our local population. They worked for the council, the police, the fire service, the JET service (getting people back to work), four different housing assocations, local wardens, local environmental services, training and learning, public health, traffic wardens, enforcement agencies for fly-tipping, dog fouling, domestic violence project, HEAT project, health projects, schools and colleges, rats (shudder) (Wendy is MC for rats, I cannot "do" rats), PCT, Anti-poverty action, Youth service, the clean team, the A team and the Brady bunch (and whoever I have forgotten in my excitement)

And they were all there to talk about our ward and our residents

And every single one of these wonderful officers was there to plan a whole week of intensive activity right here in our ward

I dont care how corny you think I am, I had a lump in my throat at the sight of such a huge number of paid professionals, all there to benefit our residents. Our residents whose average age of death is 60 something and half of whom are either on the dole or long term sickness. If every a group of people needed a week of special treatment, it is them.

The programme of activity - fighting car crime, drug crime, gun crime, ASB, obesity, alcoholism, debt, dirt, debility, promoting, health, housing, horticulture and happiness (and aromatherapy and football and nail-art) and all those things is going to be available here although it is not up just yet.

There will be a police mobile station and a council caravan in Lidl carpark on Kensington for the whole week next week and I intend to be loitering with intent there most of the time most of the week if you want to stop by and engage me or any one of our huge numbers of partners in this special week.

See you there, RESPECT!

Digital camera suggestions please

I am afraid that my current digital camera has gone the way of my last one, I dropped it by accident and the photos are now blurred.

The first one was quite primitive, no zoom etc, but at 1MB it was pretty good anyway, although nearly £300 (8 years ago).

Colin bought me this one three years ago (3MB) and that was great too, I think it was about £100, but I might be doing him a terrible disservice (sorry mate!)

I went on a digital photo taster event at work last year, as part of Learning at Work, (thanks Shaun for organising it). The tutor said anything much over 3MB is a waste of money because most domestic software, printers, PCs etc cannot really process any better photos than that in any case.

So I need to buy a new camera, so you can see us knocking on doors, standing on street stalls in the perishing cold; you can see the multi-coloured murals on Edge Lane, you can see the festivals, the shows and the fairs; you can see the great new watch (did I mention the great new watch enough yet?); you can see little Dylan in his new Thomas hat, or whatever it is. (It is not all politics in my life you know!)

What would you recommend?

A 3MB camera, with zoom, with easy to use download software, ideally small so I could perhaps wear it on a string.....

Ideas and outlets and prices please.

Thank you all so much for the warm words

I dont want to say too much about this - because I am blushing from tip to toe - but when I posted yesterday about the progress of this blog, I hadnt anticipated getting any responses as such, nor had I thought that I would be receiving lots of praise or warm words.

You have all been very kind, online, offline, in texts and in person.

Thank you for reading, as long as you are there reading and joining, I will be here writing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

20,000 hits

I passed 20,000 hits today

I only wish I had set the counter running earlier

This has been achieved since May 2007 (8 months) because I lost the first counter when I upgraded to or from the Beta version of blogger. Who know what it would have been otherwise since I started blogging in whichever year it was?

I am running at about 100 hits a day currently.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Edge Lane murals

So what do you think?

Here are some pics and a story courtesy of the Daily Post

(This post has NOTHING to do with the Liverpool Mural Project by the way - ignore the inclusion of the M word.)

The Culture Company has arranged for lots and lots and lots of boards to be painted with very bright colour-coded images, to be laid over window panes in the boarded up houses along Edge Lane. There must be 100 houses decorated in this way perhaps.

There are rows of blue, rows of yellow, rows of orange, rows of purple, rows of green and so on in sections.

The Post might call the reaction "mixed" but I can tell you for certain that the local TRAs are all dead against them, they didnt want them beforehand and refused to co-operate with their design and they hate the final results (although not the blue ones so much interestingly). They feel "shown up" by the artwork which embarasses them and which they feel draws attention the dereliction around them rather than covering it up.

The only people I have heard welcome the artwork so far have been the culture company itself but I would like to take a better sounding, lots of art lovers read the blog, so what do you think?

I have said I will take the TRA views to the authorities but I dont suppose it will make any difference - the artwork is for the benefit of travellers going past, not for local people, or so the Culture Company has said.

What do you think? Are you pleased with the artwork? Do you like the images? Do you think it is a good use of money? Do you know how much it cost? I dont but could probably find out if you want me to.

Do you think it is a good way of temporarily improving the look of the area before the CPO enquiry decides whether we should demolish or refurbish this houses? Or do you think, like residents at so many meetings I have been to, that they would be better all painted black?

Starting the New Year with our best feet forward

It was cold but bright when Wendy, Liam and I set up our street stall on Prescot Road this morning.

We gave out 50 residents' surveys and chatted to lots of people about the changes they would like to see in the area. We also updated passers-by about plans for the corner plot where the old bingo and silver blades used to be.

Some old friends came along to chat too and one particularly kind friend who shall remain nameless brought us hot coffee and sandwiches at one point.

We only managed a couple of hours before the cold had the better of us, I think it is time I bought some thermals!

It felt good though so expect to see us on the streets very regularly from now on.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Bin Saud family released from detention

I had this email from Martin Pinder just before Christmas. I am including it here because it gives all the background to the story. When Wendy and I were delivering hampers just before Christmas we saw Rev Porter and he told us about the Bin Saud family and asked what we could do. Jane had closed her office for the holidays so I went up to her house to give her all the details. I dont know what action she took but said she would get the files out of the office and make some calls. I then took a call from BBC North West and put them on to a few people - the Huthwaite's in particular. Well done to you all for such an effective campaign. Given the terrible state of affairs in Pakistan at the moment they clearly cannot go back there, I will ask Deb what we need to do next and post it up here when I get a response.

"The good news is that the Bin Saud family of Alton Street, Fairfield, L7 (and partly of Phoenix Primary School) were not deported today from a detention centre Down South, after being snatched from their home on Monday this week. Maaz, the 7 year and eldest of the four Bin Saud children was apparently taken with the family. It was Maaz who apparently won the design competition that resulted in the Polar Bear lights being affixed to the C7 HQ building on the corner of Prescot & Shield Road – a competition and project apparently organised by METAL, Marmaduke Street, under KNDC funding.

The downside of the story is that the Bin Saud family are not home and dry on having the right to remain and apparently need to go to Reliance House, Water Street next month for a Home Office decision.

If any C7, METAL or other organisations want to follow this up, can I suggest in the first instance, that you might get in touch with Deborah or Jim Huthwaite, respectively a volunteer and Governor at Phoenix school where Maaz and his sister, Afiya, attended: Jim & Deborah Huthwaite

Jim and Deborah were involved with the school in launching a petition to retain the Bin Saud family. The local Vicar of St. John’s, Rev. Andrew Porter, also played an important role in alerting the Children’s Commissioner.

The publicity through the “Echo” and “Post” also must have played an important part over the Reprieve, thanks to journalists Helen Hunt, Ben Turner and Luke Traynor of the Liverpool Echo. Locally, the Kensington-based Liverpool Africa Association also played a role in alerting people early."

City and North Neighbourhood Services

I have just sent this email but wanted my praise to reach a wider audience

"Just a little note to wish the City and North Neighbourhood Services a Happy New Year.

You have been wonderful to work with all year, I wont name names because I dont want to miss anyone out in error, but Wendy and I could not have achieved so much for so many residents without your help, your swift response and your dedication.

A truly great team of people - thank you very much"

A bit self-defensive

A couple of things have rather got up my nose in the last few weeks, I feel the need to let off a bit of steam.

1. Joe Riley describing councillors in the Liverpool Echo as "a rag, tag and bobtail outfit of squabbling, often semi-literate, baying buffoons".

I take great offence at this, as I am sure do my friends on the council, particularly those recently elected by the good people of Liverpool to serve them. Labour has won 10 seats in the last 18 months, helping our group to become more or less equal in numbers between men and women. These men and women are professionals, highly-qualified, articulate, (well-dressed too) and highly successful. They represent their constituents extremely well and are highly thought of, that is why they were elected at the expense of sitting LibDems.

I dont know when he was last in a select committee or at a scrutiny panel to hear the thoughtful discussions about policy development? The councillors on our benches at least are all working hard to represent their constituents - count all those surgeries for instance - and developing long-term policy to take the city forward, managing casework, and much more.

If he has arrived at this view by reading about or viewing full council then I would agree it is run like the mad hatter's tea party - but then is PMQs any better?

The second person I have taken some exception to this year has been Herbert Howe the hairdresser's criticism of councillors for not finding his party guests for him for his Christmas Party.

I did receive a request to help identify three guests who would be on their own on Christmas Day and who could find their way to the Adelphi under their own steam.

I gave it very serious thought but was really struggling.

I also wrote to Snelly on BBC Radio Merseyside asking if he could help me by publicising the request but he didnt email me back. I understand Billy Butler did eventually publicise it, this was the obvious approach to have taken.

A further request came from council staff much closer to Chrismas and I was forced to send this response

"Sorry, I have no idea how to identify such people, and even if I could, I dont see how they would be able to get to the Adelphi. There is no public transport on Christmas day and inevitably, if they had cars, they would drive to a friend or a relative for the day and so not be on their own anyway.

Just because you live on your own all year round, it does not mean you will be on your own on Christmas Day, most people receive offerst to go to a relatives or a friends - as I did myself. How can I identify people without obtrusively asking them for their plans and embarassing them about their lack of options?

I have discussed this at several TRAs but none of us have been able to think of anyone who fits the bill and who can travel under their own steam

For several years I spent the day at the local Salvation Army citadel where we would have a big Christmas lunch for all those who would be on their own, complete with carol singing and gifts. But the difference there was that it was the responsibility of volunteers like me to go and collect our guests in the car and then take them home again afterwards, they were inevitably virtually housebound.

So, while I think this is a lovely idea, it has not quite been thought through properly and so I am not able to help."

Herbert should have found a way for people to self-nominate or else he should have worked side by side with the organisations who already do this every year anyway - mainly church based groups.

I know I am not alone amongst councillors of all parties when I say that it is a shame we could not help but that is not because we are idle and feckless but because it was not a realistic request.

It is annoying to be criticised by people who dont really understand the role of a councillor or how we work. Herbert or Joe, if you have googled yourselves and arrived at this spot, do feel free to get in touch with me through the council website and I will be more than happy to have you to shadow me for the day. Then you might have a clearer idea of how we work and what our roles and functions are.

Liverpool Mural Project update

You will already know of course, if you are following the campaign, but TLMP has been given the green light from Phil Redmond and the Culture Company under the clearing house scheme. They are going to pay for a mural, Riverside Housing already agreed to pay for one and now we need local businesses in the city centre and in the suburbs to pay for murals on their own buildings.

I would love to see one in Kensington or Fairfield of course and we hope Riverside will help with that.

I would also love to see on in the Smithdown Place/Penny Lane area as there is really not much for visitors to see when they get off the Magical Mystery Tour Bus.
Actually we should at least have a visitor's board there, even if we cannot have a mural. People should be shown sites like the bank on the corner and the barbers and the place where the girl sold poppies from a tray.

Anyway, it is great news for the project, I am delighted that Phil has listened to the huge weight of public opinion behind it.

It is a shame the Echo made such a dog's breakfast of their report into the success, mixing themselves up with guns and paramilitaries but hopefully when the first mural is done we can put that mix-up behind us.

Well done team TLMP

Highlights of 2007

Well here it is, the annual look back at 2007

This year's highlights were (in no particular order)

1. Wendy being elected to the council in May in Kensington and Fairfield. Now officially "joined at the hip", I dont know how I managed without her.

2. KVFM 87.7 - our wonderful Community Radio Station beamed from McDonalds on Kensington for a fortnight in November. Not just doing our own show but listening to everyone else's, particularly the two girls from Sacred Heart who were out of this world, Demi and Lauren

3. Developing the Neighbourhood Area Agreement for City and North. This is why I became a councillor - to make things happen at a very local level that will have a positive impact on the lives of real people.

4. Developing the Parks Scrutiny Panel final report - if all the recommendations are implemented then our Parks are well on the way to major improvement for the benefit of everyone in the city.

5. The birth of Rebecca May in Ipswich - I just wish I was not so far away and could go and give her lots of cuddles

6. The birth of Connie in Liverpool - near enough for lots of cuddles

7. Visting County Clare and Galway in the summer, in the rain. I am going to do a separate blog on another site when time allows to get all the photos up so that everyone can see what a great place it is.

8. Being elected to the Labour Party North West Regional Board

9. Being elected to the Labour Group front bench as Policy Convenor

10. Building new relationships with lots more groups in Kensington and Fairfield and in the wider city community - like the Liverpool African Association and the Liverpool Mural Project and Latham Court Residents and Phythian Residents and Putting Neighbourhoods First at Venture Housing on Boaler Street.

Here is to 2008 - with more babies on the way and Liam standing in May, this could be another great year.

David Lewis Association, Grants for Young People in Liverpool

David Lewis Association

Grants for Young People in Liverpool

The David Lewis Association has a small amount of funding available to help disadvantaged, individual young people aged 14 - 25 in Liverpool to have a life changing experience.

Grants from £500 to £5,000 (perhaps more in exceptional circumstances) are available for disadvantaged young people, nominated by a local voluntary or community group (VCO), who must

Show exceptional potential or be embarking on a personal challenge

Live in Liverpool

Demonstrate the need for financial assistance Grants may also be given to help with medical bills or adaptations where the treatment undertaken will enable the young person to take a more active role in the life of the community or enable them to take up a personal challenge

The adaptation will enable the young person to fulfil their potential.

How to apply

The David Lewis Association is looking for nominations from local voluntary and community sector groups, youth organisations etc. The initial nomination form is available from the LCVS Grants Team who can be contacted phone on 0151 236 7728, Or via email -
Or via the grants and funding page of the LCVS web site -

The closing date for nominations is January 18th 2008. The Governors of the David Lewis Association will shortlist a number of applicants who will be asked to complete an application form. This will be assessed by the Governors of the David Lewis Association who will visit each of the short- listed applicants.

What did Father Christmas bring me?

I know you are all dying to know

I wont tell you about everything, but here are the highlights;

A Ruby and Silver watch from Gems TV from my Mum; I have been showing people how high the water level is in our cellar ever since.

The Field DVD from Colin - when we were in Ireland in the summer we stayed one night at Leenane in Galway, which apparently was famous for this film having been filmed there. So I set my heart on watching it. Oh dear, not really Christmas viewing material. Miserable film, dark and depressing although very well acted - but wow look at that scenery.

A three volume set of the Travelling Wilburys from Alex, Peter and baby Rebecca - she chooses very well for a three month old, dont you think?

A framed print of an old Liverpool city centre map dated from a long time ago - before they built St George's Hall. Showing all the docks full of water and lots of churches which are long gone. I must ask Roger when it was made.

And lots of other lovely things including Ross Noble on DVD box set, a jigsaw of Ireland, some great jewellery, smellies, books, music, a lovely calendar of Dylan, dressing gown, great red accessories, a stained glass boat to hang in the window, John O'Farrell's "An utterly impartial history of Britain", Mr Wobbly Head's Greatest Hits, Eagles CD, Knowsley Music Festival CD, chocs, photo frames, art deco pen and compact set, an emergency water kit for the third world and lots of other great stuff

Thanks Father Christmas (and all my wonderful family and friends)