Friday, February 29, 2008

Labour' vision for Liverpool goes from strength to strength

When I joined Labour's front bench last year as Policy Convenor, I had no idea how much work would be involved.

Bringing together previous manifestos and policy documents and updating them with new priorities by consulting with our Spokespeople, our councillors, candidates, local government, branch and constituency LP members, community groups, partners and agencies, holding workshops, presenting papers, matching them to national and local initiatives ....and making sure our Finance and Resources team have costed everything at each stage.

But we are nearly there now, I am really looking forward to the time when Joe Anderson officially launches Labour's vision for Liverpool - and the public can see a real choice between the people running (down) the worst council in Britain and a party properly ready and keen to serve this wonderful city.

I shall of course be loading it all on here in the fullness of time and you too can join the ranks of the consulted.

Getting involved with Liverpool Citizenship Ceremonies

Last month all 90 Liverpool City Councillors were written to by the Superintendent Registrar, to ask if we would be prepared to get involved with the Citizenship Ceremonies whereby successful applicants for British Citizenship are formally confirmed and registered.

The ceremonies celebrate the conferring of British Citizenship of around 15-20 people at a time. I went along last weekend to see a ceremony and learn more about what my role would be if I accepted the invitation to get involved. Councillor Barbara Mace was also there and we were shown into the reception area where we drank coffee with the expectant applicants. We got chatting with Tahir previously from Afghanistan, with his Liverpool born wife, little daughter and tiny baby son.

We all went into the ceremony together, the applicants with their family and friends to support them. The Superintendent Registrar, Denise, welcomed everyone and said some formal words and then the applicants were all asked to swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown and make a pledge to uphold the values and laws of the UK.

Rosemary Hawley, former High Sheriff of Merseyside made a speech and presented the certificates to the applicants. It was at the moment of receiving the certificate that these men and women from all over the world became British. They were from Zimbabwe, China, Afghanistan and various other countries, too many to count (or remember). This is the role we were being asked to take for occasional ceremonies.

Apparently it is usually done by either the Lord or Deputy Lord Mayor, the High Sheriff, Lord Lieutenant, Chief Constable or other dignatory, but there are occasions when none of them can make it so they wanted to boost the pool a bit.

It was very moving actually. There was quite a lot of emotion, Tahir and his wife who we sat near were visibly delighted as he became British. People were bobbing up and down, taking photos and running their video cameras, a few tears, lots of smiles and hugs.

They were each given a framed picture of Liverpool as a souvenir from the Registrar as well as an application form to go on the electoral register.

Rosemary explained that now that they were British they could and should play a full part in British life, involving themselves in their communities, serving as governors, magistrates or councillors and that they should make sure they always voted.

Afterwards she stood and posed for photographs with each new Brit and the Registrar said the photos would find their way all round the world to family and friends.

Apparently a large majority of applicants are health workers from the hospitals or academics from the Universities. Rosemary told them that we welcomed their experience and everything they had to offer and that we looked forward to their contribution as new British citizens.

It was really quite similar to a civil wedding service. People dressed up, taking vows - and photos - and everyone so happy, with their friends and family there to witness their special moment.

I was so pleased to be asked to get involved and I cannot wait for the chance to share such a special ceremony when it is my turn on the rota. After everyone had gone home we had another cup of coffee with the staff where we all talked about how we take being British for granted, never giving it a moment's thought, but how when you see how proud people are to become British and how much it means to them, you realise how lucky we are to have been born so.

It was a really lovely few hours - I take my hat off to David Blunkett for coming up with the idea.

Kensington United Community Football (KUCF) Chinese New Year tournament

Last weekend saw the annual KUCF tournament with a Chinese New Year theme.

We Kensington and Fairfield councillors supported their efforts with some of our Neighbourhood Renewal Fund as it is a really great event.

It is a combination of healthy and competitive sport, youth (and adult) activity - keeping people off the street and giving them something enjoyable to do, and it is great for community relations. The players are all from Kensington but come originally from all over the world, as well as from Liverpool.

In a nutshell KUCF believes that using the medium of sport - football in this case - to engage people from different areas, communities will help them to live together more harmoniously. Either that or they just really enjoy holding their own special World Cup each summer on Botanic Park and the rest is a bonus.

There were lads from places as far away as Kensington, Africa, Afghanistan, China and Edge Hill.

We had the presentation ceremony at Chilli Chilli on Nelson Street in Chinatown - another good reason to support the competition. Liam and I had a really good evening.

I was pleased to present the Fair Play trophy to the Mandela Saints, I will post some of the photos up when I get them (Siddi please note!)

Proposed Changing Rooms on Newsham Park, Fairfield

What a disappointment it was to receive the notice of a planning application "To erect single storey prefabricated modular changing pavilion (including associated loss of 27 metres of hedging)" on the historic Victorian Newsham Park in the conservation area in Fairfield.

Which part, I wonder, of "historic", "Victorian" and "Conservation area" is Liverpool City Council unable to understand?

Why would the Education Directorate imagine that we would be happy about a pre-fab being plonked down on top of our bowling green? Or 27 metres of hedge being scrubbed up? There are 39.37 inches in a metre, so lets call that about 90' shall we.

The Friends of Newsham Park are in an uproar, as you would imagine.

The Conservation Officer is not exactly thrilled either - and I cannot think the Park staff are made-up, it is not the kind of thing that will enhance our proposed HLF bid.

Catherine Jones at the Liverpool Echo was kind enough to carry the story for us.
I have asked Councillor Berni Turner, Liberal Democrat Executive Member for Parks to arrange a meeting with the Friends, the councillors, the Park Staff, the Conservation Staff, the Planning Staff and the Education staff so we can try and thrash something out before the planning application is determined.

(She has already met with Cllr Doran and with a representative of the Friends Group but refused to let me attend. So I hope she comes good on this request this time).

To be honest, where this application is concerned, nothing short of "not in that spot" and "not looking like that" is likely to satisfy.

Thankfully the Planning Officer has agreed to put the proposal to a Planning Committee instead of deciding it herslf.

If you want to comment on the plans yourself then please note the following;

Application ref: 08DC/0349 (Please quote at all times)

The application may be inspected at the Ground Floor Reception, Millennium House, 60 Victoria Street, Liverpool, L1 6JF during the following hours:
Monday – Friday 8.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. (except during Bank and Public holidays). If calling into the department to inspect the plans, you are advised to make a prior appointment to ensure that the case officer is available. If you have the application number with you when you visit, it will help staff find the file for you as quickly as possible.

If you have any comments to make on this application, you should write to Nicola Robinson in the Planning Department as soon as possible so that she receives them not later than 11th March 2008 quoting the above application reference number.

An update on the Liverpool Chinese Lantern Festival Culture Show

Hi everyone

I have had some more contact with Fenfen Huang who organised the Spring Sonata Chinese Lantern Festival Culture Show on Saturday 23rd February.

She has asked me to draw your attention to some of the feedback. There is a review of the event which was held at the Lighthouse in Anfield on self-proclaimed German-Scouser Mone's Liverpool 2008: Music, Mediation and Place blog. There are also some video clips, definitely worth a read and a look.

If you can manage ftp video loading - which I struggle with a bit - you can go straight to these clips on the BBC site.

There have been some really good Chinese cultural events this year so far, I look forward to more.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Liverpool Ice Rink, Kensington - "It was a Palace to us"

Have a look at these wonderful old programmes from the Liverpool Palace Ice Rink courtesy of John Caton who shared them with Steve Faragher some years ago

Now that is what I call a Neighbourhood Centre!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chinese Lantern Festival Culture Show 'Spring Sonata'

Please note this interesting information about what sounds like a really great event on Saturday. It was sent to me by Fenfen Huang, Producer & Director of the Chinese Lantern Festival Culture Show 'Spring Sonata'.

"The Chinese Lantern Festival Culture Show 'Spring Sonata' will take place on Saturday 23rd February 2008 at Liverpool Lighthouse Theatre.

This event has received a great deal of support from local, regional and national bodies, including Arts Council England, Riverside Housing, Arena Housing Group, P.H Holt Foundation, Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund, Tiger Beer, local Chinese restaurants, Liverpool Lighthouse, BBC, St Sebastian Primary School, Hope University. LIPA and so on.

This event aims to introduce Chinese culture across the board in various art forms to a wider British audience; while we are celebrating our tradition and authenticity, we are also striving to advance innovation and present a modern image of China. The whole production process has been exceptionally enjoyable, especially where we have schools and groups outside the Chinese community involved and provided opportunities for them to learn new skills like Chinese dance, music, singing, martial arts, ballroom and film making.

Therefore, we wish to share our passion and enthusiasm as well as our wonderful experiences with you and hope you will join in this event to see what we are creating.

The leaflet of the show have been enclosed, please find it and you will be able to find more information about the show.

Also here is the link to our promotional video:

Please help us and circulate this to as many people as possible.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


This is taken from a PDF in an email I have been sent. I cannot upload PDFs and can only link to them if they are already held on the web. So I cannot reproduce it for you, which is a shame. However, this is the information I have extracted for you.

A topical subject with the news that the superlambanana might be taken away from Liverpool - and a great idea for an arts installation in Newsham Park.

Arts in Regeneration in partnership with Adult Learning Service invites you to
a creative arts day exploring ideas, themes, hopes and aspirations for a series of public art installations for Newsham Park to be sited in June 2008.

Tuebrook has adopted a large Superlambanana, this is you opportunity to welcome &
celebrate its new habitat.

You are invited to WISH upon a SUPERLAMBANANA


Newsham Drive Adult Learning Centre The Creation Station (Annexe) 83 Newsham Drive, L6 7UH.

10am - 2pm 23rd Febuary 2008

Food, fruit punch Visual arts/ photographic Exhibitions Film & Video Diaries, Workshops, information exchange, Networking

Bring stories, photographs, memories, artifacts, Videos anecdotes and philosophies to share.

We will provide a listening ear, friendly face, lovely food, fruit punch and show you some of the stories we have gathered so far.

Ballot for Labour candidates for North West Region European Election

Ballot papers have gone out for the Labour candidates for the North West Region European Elections.

Each Labour Party member has a vote, to identify the order in which they would like to see the 8 candidates on the list that will form the Labour slate in the European elections in 2009.

Our first ballot paper allows us to choose a first and a second preference for those two MEPs who are seeking re-election.

Arlene McCarthy MEP and Brian Simpson MEP are both seeking re-election, Gary Titley MEP, leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party has announced his retirement.

I am backing Arlene as number 1 and Brian as number 2.

My statement on her election material reads

"As a candidate and now a councillor, Arlene’s support has given me a real boost. Arlene comes out knocking on doors in our campaigns and I know her office is always at the end of the phone if we need assistance. Arlene’s multi-lingual skills even helped us to communicate with African French speaking residents. I was proud during the last campaign to be on the doorsteps in my ward offering local people the chance to talk to their councillor, MP and MEP – all of them women"

From the list of the six candidates who will be on the list but are not currently MEPs, I am voting number 1 for Theresa Griffin who was a Labour candidate in 1999 and 2004, but just too far down the list to be elected to Parliament.

She is a Liverpool member and former city councillor.

I have worked closely with both Arlene and Theresa and I know that both of them will be marvellous representatives in Europe. I have not worked closely with Brian as he covers another part of the region under the MEPs own arrangements, but know he has been very effective too, particularly in the area of transport.

If you have not yet returned your ballot paper, please consider voting 1 for Arlene, 2 for Brian and 1 for Theresa.
If Labour secures 3 MEPs in the European elections in 2009 then these three would be my top choice.

If we secure more then it will be a bonus and I am sure the other candidates, who I dont know personally, will be great too. They went through a rigorous process to get this far - weeks of interviews - some of which I chaired myself.

Get those ballot papers sent back!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Liberal Democrat Spring conference due in Liverpool

LibDem Spring Conference in Liverpool on March 7th - 9th 2008.

Interesting to see the conference chair say "The party’s UK-wide spring conference is fast approaching – the first we’ve ever held in a major city run by the Liberal Democrats, and, indeed, the first party conference ever held in Liverpool."

In view of current events in Liverpool and within the LibDem party locally, can we expect this to be their last too?

I see he is expecting to meet delegates in the "good-sized conference bar" - no let up in the drinking agenda then.

I have had a look at the conference info I found on their website.

I found an article in the conference press pack by Chris Rennard, Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrat and now Lord Wavertree, where he says "If you have any spare time over the weekend of the Conference (or at any other time!) to help the Liverpool Lib Dems, then please do let them know! The city still has five Labour MPs and they are doing everything they can to remove our majority on the council."

He had better believe it, and not just them either!

He also says "The Capital of Culture year will be a great celebration and help Liverpool look positively to the future – and we hope everyone else will feel more
positive about the city."

What is he trying to say here? If people dont think positively about Liverpool after ten years of Liberal Democrat rule, then whose fault is that? And who are these gainsayers anyway? As he is the Lord for Wavertree, the constituency where I live, I would prefer something more upbeat from him than this, thank you!

I am glad that 1500 conference delegates will be in Liverpool, boosting the local economy, and I do hope that they will have a great time as individuals and that they will see the city in a great light and will go back home singing the city's praises -and I am sure they will. I hope the 08 people are providing guides to what's on that weekend in the city in terms of art, culture, literature, conversation, music. There are lots of great things they can be doing in the city - and probably all of them are more interesting than a LibDem conference.

But I cannot help thinking that conference organisers will wish they had chosen a different venue now that their flagship LibDem council is officially the worst council in the country.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Superlambanana could be leaving Liverpool

I am rather fond of the superlambanana actually.

So the news this week that the Japanese artist Taro Chiezo is now saying we only had it on loan for 10 years and he now wants to sell it for £2million to the highest bidder is of some concern.

I read on the Echo website that someone was suggesting the council should buy it. I doubt very much if anyone would think that a council in as much of a financial mess as ours could spend that much money on a work of art, but perhaps the lottery (or the Tate?) could help. It strikes me that if the lambanana is not bought by the nation it could even leave the country.

According to Halton council's website, "the unusual artwork was created to warn of the dangers of genetically modified food, whilst being appropriate to the city of Liverpool due to the port's rich history in the trade of lambs and the import of bananas."

I didnt know about the GM food angle until today. I thought it was only concerned with Liverpool's trade.

Does this make it more, or less, reasonable that it should stay here?

What is certain is that the city has embraced it fully and every tourist shop in the city sells mini lambananas decorated in different colours - it is our version of Manchester's cows in that sense.

I would like us to keep it, but I think £2million is a ridiculous figure in the current climate.

What would the legality be if we got someone to "knock up" a copy of it and display that instead? There are so many copies of it already, 100 smaller versions are planned to be displayed round the city in June this year as part of our city of culture celebrations. See here for details on the Liverpool Art and Culture blog.

What do you think? Should we campaign to raise the money and keep it here in Liverpool? Should we campaign at least that it stays in the country? Or should we tell the sculptor to take it away and instead display our mini versions?

Or do you think I am superlambananas for even caring?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

What better way to illustrate St Valentine's Day than with a heart-shaped strawberry from my sister Maxine's kitchen?

May your day be filled with love and warmth and joie de vivre

(And if you have forgotten to send your loved one a card then you have my permission to save the photo and send it to them by email. It might just save the day)

This is my favourite love poem too that I would like to share with my more romantic readers

by Christina Rossetti

I wish I could remember that first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me,
If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or Winter for aught that I can say;
So unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom yet for many a May.
If only I could recollect it, such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow;
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much;
If only now I could recall that touch,
First touch of hand in hand.--Did one but know!

Dream High - and the two buffets!

A good meeting at Dream High this week where we were treated to not one but two buffets. One we had ordered and paid for and one provided free, unexpectedly by a client. I am not at liberty to discuss anything about any clients so wont, but it was a lovely buffet and I am sure they will do very well. The carrot cake was fab, and as my colleague next to me said, that clearly counted as one of my five pieces of fruit and veg.

While I cannot talk about the clients themselves, I can talk about the organisation and how it works and what we do. As it explains on the website, our Enterprise Facilitator, Claire, works with entrepreneurs to identify obstacles that may be in their way in terms of setting up a business or growing an existing business. The Enterprise Facilitator will then work to find resources to assist the client to overcome the issues.

This is mainly done via a panel of around 50 volunteer advisers (of which I am one) who meet every month to give confidential support to clients, this enables budding Entreprenuers to be able to access the volunteers skills, experience and it also helps to open up networks that may otherwise be difficult to access.

I can also tell you about our open day on March 27th from 10am - 4pm at All Saints Church Hall off Cunningham Road, Old Swan.

If you live in the Kensington, Fairfield, Old Swan or Dovecot area and are finding it hard to get your new business off the ground, then come and see us at the open day. Or if you are able to offer free help and support to entrepreneurs either personally or by putting them in touch with people you know who can, then please also come along or contact Claire through the website to offer your services.

Holt Road Housing Focus Group

An interesting meeting on Monday night where we learnt more about the plans to do up the fronts of the properties on Holt Road as part of the retail strategy.

I think it will make a real difference in this run-down area. There will also be some tree planting, new pavements and a general sprucing up. Residents lead the process, working on the design plans with BCA landscapes.

We also got an update on the Gilead Street development where Lovells are building houses and flats for rent, sale and shared equity, particularly for those people who have been uprooted by the Edge Lane CPOs.

I was extremely disappointed though to learn that the promised path between the reservoir site - and the GPs and the library - and the Holt Road neighbourhood will not now go ahead because the people who check developments for crime pinch points have established that such a path would create an ASB hot spot.

I am quite sure that they are right, and that they are right not to authorise it, and I am grateful for their involvement in ensuring that we dont build crime into our developments.

But I am deeply sorry on behalf of those residents who have been promised such a path for years and who will have to walk all the way round the top of the site by going up Holt Road and along Kensington or will have to walk round the bottom by the school to get to their community facilities.

A couple of door-knocking sessions

Liam and I have been out knocking on doors twice this week so far. I must say it is a wonderful way to spend the day. We are so warmly received, especially when people realise we are there to discuss issues and concerns they have. I cannot count the number of people who thank us for calling and say how pleased they are to see us. I only wish we could get round more people but we tend to spend an average of fifteen minutes at each house so it can be a very slow process.

Today was particularly good, we recruited a new member, took away 37 pieces of casework - guess what I have been processing all evening? and we found a new window cleaner prepared to come and do our windows, result!

Dog muck is still top of the agenda for most people and they are deeply disappointed to learn that the LibDems voted down our motion to get some more dog wardens to enforce action against irresponsible dog owners. There is some good news on dog bins though. We went to our "Putting our neighbourhood first" meeting in Venture Housing today and they have agreed to fund 20 dog bins, along with Rodney Housing and also the Elm Park TRA. These will go on the streets near Newsham Park where this is a particular problem.

Local ward councillors (me, Wendy and Frank) agreed to spend our contingency fund from the NRF on buying a further 10 bins to support the project, and also some hanging baskets and planters for the L6 area. We are going to have another Sparkles day on April 12th hopefully where local people can help plant them up, but more about this when the details have been confirmed.

Street stall - a bit warmer

This week's street stall was a bit warmer than the last one thankfully although the wind was trying to blow the Labour sign off the front of the stall.

We had a very good reception and chatted to lots of people about their issues and concerns.

We were quite near a bus-stop and did have one slightly bizarre moment when a bus stopped in the traffic with its door open right next to us.

The driver shouted out to me that we should all be voting Conservative and that Maggie Thatcher was a wonderful woman. I shouted back that everyone should get off his bus as he was obviously crazy.

He then shouted that the Liberal Democrats were the party we should support and I repeated my instructions to his passengers more loudly.

Then he shouted over that in actual fact he was not allowed to vote, and then more or less or harmony we shouted to each other that this was because he was criminally insane.

He winked and drove off as all the passengers sat looking out at us with some bemusement.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Liverpool NHS Personal Health Trainer Service

Having met them in the caravan during RESPECT week, I arranged to meet with Joan, Karen, Chris and Jan of the Liverpool NHS Personal Health Trainer Service last week.

They work in the neighbourhood supporting individuals to make healthier lifestyle choices.

If you live in Liverpool and you are looking to lead a healthier lifestyle by perhaps giving up smoking, doing more exercise, reducing your alcohol intake, having a healthier diet and you are over 16 then they can help.

They work in the local community, where they also live and so they really understand the issues and challenges faced by local people.

They offer support and signposting and make referrals to appropriate agencies.

They can also come and talk to community groups about the sorts of things they can offer.

I was very impressed with their obvious enthusiasm and am sure that Wendy and I will be recommending that our residents get in touch with them when they want to change their lifestyles.

Turning the Place Over - Richard Wilson

My friend Pat, visiting from the Holme Valley, and I went to see the art installation on Moorfields, Liverpool city centre this morning.

Turning the Place Over by Richard Wilson is a remarkable piece of engineering which held us enthralled.

In essence Richard has taken an empty building - the former Yates's Wine Lodge opposite Moorfields Railway Station and done something amazing with it.

He has cut out a circle which must be about 20 feet in diameter, from the front facade. This circle/disc of material - walls, windows, ledges, radiators, etc, has then been put on hydraulics and revolves on various axis, showing itself front and back, inside and out. It also of course exposes the insides of the building on certain of its turns and every so often it fits perfectly back into the space.

I cannot really explain it very well, I guess it is one of those things you need to see for yourself. If you check out the link I understand there are a lot of video clips you can see. I have also posted a photo I found on the website. Credit should go to them for that.

My fascination was with the construction really. I was wondering whether the circle/disc contains the true building, as cut out, or whether it all fell apart when the cutter went through it and this is a faithful reproduction.

The touch that really impressed me was the tiny sliver of radiator that remains on the edge of the disc, which is underneath the window on the inside of the wall.

It is marvellous - and has won very great praise - do go and see it. It is triggered by daylight so is operational all day until the end of 2008.

The cost and other details concerning those murals on Edge Lane

Steve Faragher has found out the cost of the murals on Edge Lane for us. Thanks Steve.

The responses to his Freedom of Information questions are as follows;

Cost of workshops

The costs of the workshops were included within the cost of the artist we commissioned for the project – Donna Berry. Donna is a Liverpool based artist who has worked with community groups previously and ran the workshops. The costs of the venues used was nil – the venues provided the space free of charge

When did the workshops take place

We held three workshops – two at the Kensington Fields Residents Association on the 25th September 2007 and 2nd October 2007, and a third at Latham Court on 12th October 2007

Which groups were involved in the workshops and how many workshops took place

We invited various local groups to participate in the workshops, via letters and phone contact, including:-

St Johns Community Centre
Hindu Cultural organisation
Over 50's Sacred Heart
Crossfield Tenants and Residents Association
Edge Hill Youth Group
Kensington Fields Association
L'Arche Liverpool Community
Youth Inclusion Group
Fairfield Area Residents Association

Was there a tendering process for these workshops-i.e. how was this organisation chosen to carry out this work

The Culture Company carried out the procurement of the community artist selected, Donna Berry. A tender document outlining the process of holding workshops, working with local community groups and designing the eventual artwork resulted in Donna being selected.

The total costs for the design of the boards was £7,000, whilst the cost of the fabrication of the boards was £38,690 for 448 boards.

The total costs for the erection of the boards was £26,610, including the associated painting works to each of the treated properties.

For your additional information the Culture Company were only involved in the project in terms of paying for and procuring the artist. The fabrication and installation of the project was undertaken through Liverpool City Council’s Regeneration Portfolio through the ‘Look of the City’ programme

Thursday, February 07, 2008

So it is official - the LibDems running Liverpool are a load of cowboys!

Warning - satirical post to follow

It's cowboy time (again) - can you hear "High Noon" playing in the background?

Today's Liverpool Echo front page is a political masterpiece

And the newspaper is so thrilled with it that they have made their own PDF of it, for the first time as far as I know, although I will stand corrected.

I have tried to download it and display it here but my system wont let me, the council internet connection on my council laptop told me it was forbidden to me and my own laptop on my own broadband connection here has crashed trying. But I will link to the story and let you have a go at downloading it yourself. Certainly I am minded to have the front page framed and hang it up in our office. What I have managed to capture is an extract from the photo on the Echo's website. It will give you a wee taster of the real thing.

So what is it all about? What is the woman going on about?

Liverpool City COuncil has today been officially given a One star rating by the National Audit Commission - it is now officially the worst council in the country.

The Echo's front page is styled as a movie poster.

The movie, which is a category "18" is called "The Lone Star State" and stars Warren Bradley (LibDem leader of the council) as "The man with no cash" and Colin Hilton (the Chief Executive) as "The loan arranger". There is a huge coloured photo of Councillor Bradley wearing a cowboy outfit, a stetson with an 08 badge on the front and a sheriff's badge. He is set in front of a US mountainous landscape - Texas one assumes?

The words which accompany this magnificence read

"WE SHOULD be throwing our Stetsons in the air and celebrating being European Capital of Culture.

But today we are drowning our sorrows in the last-chance saloon.

Welcome to the Lone Star State.

Instead of revelling in 08 pride, Liverpool is reeling from being awarded a single star by the Audit Commission, making us England’s worst-run local authority.

The council gets a bashing, but as today’s national radio bulletins will testify, it's our entire city that’s held open to ridicule.

We’ve spent a generation rebuilding our image after the misery of Thatcherism, Hatton and Militant. In terms of economic regeneration we’ve done a brilliant job.

But reputation-wise today’s damning dose of shame is in danger of undoing years of hard graft.

Council leaders can bleat about the Audit Commission’s criteria being a blunt instrument. They can whinge about lack of government support. And they can point with some satisfaction to good showings in education, social services and the environment.

But council taxpayers deserve and demand sound financial management. Services have improved and council taxes are no longer the country’s highest, but it’s been achieved at the expense of not building up an emergency fund.

Now we’re £60m adrift.

Cancelling planned 08 Culture events must not, will not, happen. So where’s the money coming from? Let’s see the plan and understand the pain we’ll have to go through.

Sort this out now for the sake of a city on a tightrope spanning success on one side and another generation of scorn on the other.

Make no mistake – the May elections loom and the natives are restless.

Time for the sheriff and his deputies to hitch up their gunbelts and earn their spurs.

Or saddle up and move on out of town."

I guess that says it all really. Even the Echo has finally had enough of this outfit.

Good news on police stop and search forms

I am so pleased that a report written by Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the chief inspector of constabulary in England and Wales, into police reform is going to recommend scrapping or radically redesigning stop and search forms. See the BBC report here anticipating the report being published later today.

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

I look forward to reading what Sir Ronnie has to say.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Another blogger thrown in prison

Further to the earlier post about the man in Afghanistan, Susan Watson has alerted me to another internet blogger who has been thrown in prison.

This man, Fouad Ahmad al-Farhan has been detained "incommunicado" in a prison in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for complaining on his blog ironically about their regime of detaining people without trial and torturing them.

The campaign to free him is being run by Amnesty International and more detail is available here.

I must say, reading these stories makes me realise just how lucky we are in the West with our freedom of expression.

I have written to the Saudi Ambassador to ask him to step in. I hope you will consider doing the same, on behalf of bloggers and blog readers everywhere.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Campaigning in the bitter cold

Sunday was spent out on the streets, door-knocking and taking photos and coming away with loads of casework.

I have to say that campaigning outdoors in winter is not wonderful.

I think back to April last year when it was so hot, we were getting sun burn. It seems hard to imagine being as warm as that when you are standing shivering, dressed in layers of clothes, with hats and scarves and gloves, dodging rain and hail.

The other worry is that all the while people are chatting to you, you are aware that the heat is rushing out of their front door. Plus it is not much fun for them standing there in their pyjamas at zero temperatures either.

I cannot wait until Spring gets here! (And why is it that the hottest part of the year is becoming the late April/May period and not the July/August period as I always imagined it).

Good Taste Gallery

After the conference I popped into town to my favourite gift shop.

The Good Taste Gallery on Stafford Street in Liverpool.

I was looking for a couple of birthday presents and was very happy with my purchases. I am sure the recipients will be too.

The service is really great, the staff take lots of time to help you choose and are endlessly available to take things out of cabinets and even put them all back again while you dither over the large collection of hand-made individual pieces of jewellery in particular.

And then when you get home and open your carrier bag, you find they have slipped a couple of sweeties inside, along with a slip advertising their website.

Can I please recommend the gallery to you.

North West Labour Party Local Government Training Day

On Saturday we hosted the North West Labour Party's Local Government Training Day at the Devonshire House Hotel in Liverpool.

Over 100 people came to talk about campaigning.

I held a workshop on the role of candidates between now and May. I ran it twice and both were great fun.

For reasons I shall not explain, I dont want to give any tricks away to the opposition after all, I asked the attendees to tell me whether they had ever met anyone famous.

It was an amazing list;

Leaving national politicians aside (lots of people have met the PM and the former PM), trainees had met

Gordon Banks
Paul McCartney
The Queen
Richard Attenborough
Ron Hill the marathon runner
One man had been blessed by the Pope as a child
and one woman had made curtains for the Liverpool football team.

There were lots more but I cannot remember them all.

For my part, I once walked past a man who I strongly believed to be James Garner from the Rockford Files in London.

Anyway it all went very well and as always it was great to see old friends and make some new ones.

Frankie and Bennys

Colin and I had a meal in Frankie and Bennys on Edge Lane last Friday night after surgery.

I like it, nice food - pasta and pizza mainly, nice decor - an Italian/US diner with lots of old black and white photos of families and 50s popstars.

When you go upstairs there are Italian langauge lessons being piped into the stairs and toilets which is a nice touch.

It is however extremely popular for children's parties so expect to have the lights dimmed while a birthday cake is carried out and the whole restaurant sings happy birthday. This happened about four times in an hour or so on Friday.

But apart from that they were all reasonably well behaved and did not detract from our pleasant evening.

I am going again this Friday with colleagues, but at lunch time, so it will presumably be much quieter.

Anyway, give it a go, it is particularly handy if you are going to the pictures as it is just across the car park.

BURA - Section 106 workshop

One day last week I went to a workshop on Section 106 as part of the BURA conference in Liverpool.

BURA are the British Urban Regeneration Authority.

The speakers were planners, developers and regeneration speakers and we then had a table discussion about the issue.

Section 106 is essentially money that private developers pay to local authorities.

IDEA explains it here

"Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows a local planning authority (LPA) to enter into a legally-binding agreement or planning obligation, with a land developer over a related issue. The obligation is sometimes termed as a 'Section 106 agreement'.

Such agreements can cover almost any relevant issue and can include sums of money.

Possible examples of S106 agreements could be:

the developer will transfer ownership of an area of woodland to a LPA with a suitable fee to cover its future maintenance

the local authority will restrict the development of an area of land, or permit only specified operations to be carried out on it in the future eg, amenity use

the developer will plant a specified number of trees and maintain them for a number of years

the developer will create a nature reserve

S106 agreements can act as a main instrument for placing restrictions on the developers, often requiring them to minimise the impact on the local community and to carry out tasks, which will provide community benefits."

Some of the local authorities present had used Section 106 to require that a percentage of the homes they built would be affordable for people on lower incomes.

In Liverpool we use it to fund maintenance of and improvements to parks and public open spaces, asking for perhaps about £1k per unit built. I understand that Manchester charges more like £5k per unit built. I dont know about other authorities.

We had an interesting presentation on how this is managed in London and the results of a survey done there asking planners and developers, separately, how they felt about the legislation, how it was working for them, how much best practice they shared with other authorities, what sorts of things it was spent on etc.

Lots of food for thought.

The Government is refining this a little and the emphasis is on "planning gain". What do you think? Should developers have to pay a little to the community out of its profits? What sort of things would you like to see such money spent on? What other agreements would you like to see the local authority come to with developers when agreeing to plans?

Latest news from the Community Justice Centre in North Liverpool

I have been sent this by email and am sharing it with you for interest.

Community Justice Centre, North Liverpool

Welcome to the Community Justice Centre, North Liverpool e-bulletin, keeping you up-to-date with our latest news and progress.

Working with the Community

More than 300 14 and 15 year-olds from Alsop High School in Walton and the North Liverpool Academy in Anfield, ‘judged for themselves’ and learned about the reality of life in prison, as part of a number of special events delivered by the Community Justice Centre in December.

Using a mix of real criminal cases heard at the Community Justice Centre and educational tools developed by the OCJR (Office of Criminal Justice Reform), the centre team led class-based discussions about Community Justice and the Youth Justice System. The pupils role-played in a mock sentencing event, to help them to understand the court process and how offenders are sentenced.

The young people also role-played in a restorative justice conference, which is one of the many innovative approaches pioneered by the centre. It brings together victims with offenders as part of the sentence. The pupils learned how this method aims to help offenders explain their actions, understand the harm they have done to their victim and the community, and give them an opportunity to make amends.

At the North Liverpool Academy, the centre team was joined by a Prison Officer from HMP Liverpool, who gave a presentation about an offender’s first five minutes in prison. The presentation focused on the realities of prison life which provoked many questions from pupils and teachers. They were also given the opportunity to experience the size of a real prison cell.

The Problem Solving Approach

The Community Justice Centre team has set up a new group to tackle anti social behaviour issues at the Anfield Sports and Community Centre (ASCC) in Lower Breck Road.

The Community Problem Solving Group (PSG) which includes representatives from a range of local agencies, met for the first time at the end of 2007. The group identified around a dozen of the main perpetrators of anti social and criminal behaviour in the Anfield area and put together a number of proposals to tackle the problem, including plans to position a mobile police station on the ASCC site, as part of a community event.

The group identified the need to divert local youngsters from involvement in anti social behaviour and to encourage use of the centre’s facilities by the local community. This group intends to link any activities it plans with Anfield’s Respect Action Week planned for March 2008.

Tackling Crime and its Causes

Making Amends

A 16 year-old who shouted racial abuse at a steward at Everton Football Club has had his season ticket confiscated and has been banned from attending games for the rest of the season. This action taken by the club followed a recommendation by Judge David Fletcher for the youth to take part in a restorative justice conference. This involved the youth meeting the steward and apologising for his behaviour. The offender also wrote a letter of apology expressing his regret and the steward is reported to be happy with the outcome.

Breaking the Cycle of Offending

A 16 year-old from Anfield with a history of anti social behaviour appeared before Judge Fletcher in January for breaching an order which prevented him from contacting other known persistent young offenders in the area. The offender had previously received custodial sentences, so Judge Fletcher imposed a residence order at an address in Nottingham, with the aim of breaking the cycle of the offending behaviour by removing the offender from North Liverpool.


The centre is planning to launch a competition to find the best design for its very own Superlambanana.

In support of Liverpool’s City of Culture year the Community Justice Centre is taking part in a major art event, when up to 100 replica “Superlambananas”, individually painted and decorated by local artists, community groups and celebrities, will be displayed around the city in the summer.

The centre’s competition, aimed at young people, will be launched in the Spring, and aims to find the most creative and innovative design for the centre’s version of the Liverpool icon. Once the winning design has been selected, the Superlambanana will be painted by local young people with help from an artist.

It is expected that the completed replica “Superlambananas” will be a major tourist attraction in the city and the details of each one will appear on a special website and a location map. Some will be auctioned for charity at the end of the year. Details of the competition will be announced in the Spring.

Panto Success

The centre hosted its third senior citizens’ Christmas party at Liverpool Hope University’s Cornerstone building at the beginning of December with a special performance of its panto version of Cinderella, ‘Checkout Cindy’.

The pantomime was a huge success, with original songs created and developed by the young people involved, with help from centre staff and the Rotunda College. The initial performance was followed by a matinee for 100 local people, including the performers’ parents.

Since their debut the young people have performed a selection of their songs at various senior citizens’ parties around North Liverpool. Building on its success it is hoped the Panto will become an annual Community Justice Centre event.

In 2007, in addition to its own activities, the centre was able to offer its Community Room as a venue for two children’s Christmas parties. ASDA in Breck Road held its children’s party at the centre when its original venue fell through. The centre also hosted a children’s party for the Impact Group which holds a weekly support session for local families at the centre.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Independent newspaper campaign to save Sayed Pervez Kambaksh

My friend Susan Watson has suggested I carry this story as it contributes to the debate about blogging, why we do it, who reads it and how it works.

In this country I can write pretty much what I like on my blog but in other countries people are facing the death penalty for reading and sharing entries, not even just for writing them.

Please sign the petition calling upon our Government to help save Sayed Pervez Kambaksh here

The full story about how Sayed Pervez Kambaksh found himself in this terrible situation is here

Since this article was written the Afghan Senate has withdrawn its support for the death sentence in this case, but others remain to be convinced. Your support on the petition would be great.

Your thoughts on freedoms would also be welcome

Friday, February 01, 2008

Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - Blue Plaque to be unveiled in honour of Robert Tressell

I have been sent this Press Release which I am pleased to share with you

If you have not read it then you should, if you are a mate of mine then you can borrow my copy if you promise to give it back

No embargo time
Released Date 28-01-2008. 16.00 hours.
Blue Plaque to be unveiled to the author of "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists"
Liverpool Trades Union Council will be unveiling a blue plaque dedicated to Robert Tressell at The Old Royal Liverpool Infirmary (Brownlow Practice, opposite Dental Hospital), Pembroke Place, Liverpool at 10.30 am on Sunday 3rd February 2008.
The author died of phthisis pulmonalis (tuberculosis) in the hospital in 1911.

The unveiling ceremony will be conducted by Mr Reg Johnson, the last surviving member of the famous author’s family, together with Mr. Stephen Nederlof an Apprentice Painter & Decorator employed by Mersey Tunnels and Ms. Eileen Gorry of Blackburne House, Construction Section Training Department. A reception will be held at 12.00.noon in the Casa Club, Hope Street after the event. Transport to the reception will be by courtesy coach.

Reg Johnson will be available at an informal reception at the Casa Club on Saturday
2nd February from 7.30pm to sign copies of the book brought to him by well wishers. A small number of books will also be available for sale.

All are welcome to the events. Surplus funds will go towards providing a signed hard back copy of "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" to any Merseyside school that wishes to have a copy.


Contact John Flanagan, Liverpool Trades Council for further information.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists has so far been published at least 137 times - UK (105), Russia (6), Germany (6), Canada (3), Australia (3), USA (3), Czechoslovakia (3), Poland (2), Holland (1), Belgium (1), Bulgaria (1), Japan (1), Turkey (1), Unidentified (1) - and possibly others elsewhere.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists has sold at least 1,100,000 copies worldwide and may well have sold twice or even three times that number.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is clear, straightforward and eminently readable; it has humour, parody, pathos, irony, rage, little victories, defeats, arguments and ideas, and it is brim full of hatred and contempt for the capitalist ‘System’, the ruling class and their hangers-on.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is about hope. It is about Socialist values and their continued relevance when we are being told that capitalism is here forever. That greed is good, that war, famine, poverty, racism and every form of oppression are natural, normal and permanent features of life on Planet Earth.

Not many novels are about house painters, and very few novels of any kind have been so often adapted for the stage, taken on tour and featured in TV and radio documentaries. Above all, almost none get passed from hand to hand by millions of workers and get taken to their hearts.

The event is supported by North West TUC.

See Dave Harker, Tressell. The real story of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (London: Zed, 1983), which is largely based on Reg Johnson's collection, The Robert Tresssell family Papers. Their A Working Bibliography can be found on the TUC website:

'In January 1997 twenty-five thousand voters in a Waterstones ‘books of the century’ survey put RTP in sixty-second place.' (Harker, Tressell, 2003, page 245.)

The book was no. 72 in the BBC’s “Big Read” list in April 2003. See link

The Chairman of Mersey Travel, Councillor Mark Dowd will be attending the event.


Mr. Reg Johnson, Archivist RTP Papers.

Mr. Dave Harker, Author.

Mr. Dennis Dunphy, President Liverpool Trades Union Council.

Councillor Sharon Sullivan, Chair: Waterfront Neighbourhood Community, Liverpool City and local Ward Councillor will be attending and speaking.

The Construction Safety Campaign (CSC) marks his memory every year with a Robert Tressell Award to people who have served workers all their lives. The CSC also supports this application.

Mr. Reg Johnson is the husband of the late Joan Johnson; granddaughter of Noonan. He keeps the memory and all what his book stands for, alive and in the public domain for the world to study and learn from.

Letter from Mr. Reg Johnson on the event.

I write as compiler and custodian of 'The Robert Tressell Family Papers'.

Robert Tressell was the pen-name of Robert Noonan, author of 'The
Ragged Trousered Philanthropists'. The book was first published in 1914 and has never been out of print. It has become an international classic and has been
published in a number of languages. Robert produced the 1,770 handwritten pages of manuscript whilst living and working in Hastings, following his trade
as a skilled craftsman, signwriter and designer.

On completion of his book it was his intention to emigrate with his daughter, Kathleen, to Canada. He left Kathleen in Hastings when he travelled to Liverpool to make arrangements for their passage overseas. Whilst in Liverpool he became ill and was admitted to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary where he died 3 Feb. 1911, aged
just 40 years. He was buried as a pauper in Walton Park Cemetery. Since then his memory has been honoured in a number of ways. A memorial stone was placed on his grave, containing the bodies of twelve other paupers, in 1977. The Robert Tressell Building, a workers co-operative was also opened in 1977.

Joan, my late wife, died in October 2000, was Robert's granddaughter. Joan, together with Jack Jones, retired General Secretary of TGWU, (UNITE) and others unveiled the memorial stone at Walton Cemetery in 1977. She opened the Robert Tressell Building on 18 June 1997, a workers co-operative based in the former Derby Road (Bootle) Bridewell, now a transport depot. The family is honoured to support and encourage all projects promoted to honour Robert's memory.

Reg W.Johnson

(Email addresses and phone numbers have been deleted to protect their privacy. But I can put you in touch with Reg or with the Trades Council if you email me at louise dot baldock at liverpool dot gov dot uk)