Monday, March 31, 2008

Positively Drooping

...that is my house-plants, not me.

I have just looked up from the computer to notice that some severe neglect of my many houseplants has resulted in serious damage.

The plant with no name, that I have never found in a plant book nor in Kew Gardens, nor in Sefton Palm-House which I have been tending for 15 years, is now in a very sorry state. Leaves yellowing and dying through neglect.

A bad case of under-watering I would say, to complement last month's Umbrella Tree disaster which was a bad case of enthusiastic over-watering having noticed same neglect hitherto....It has more or less recovered but will never be the same - and that one has been 18 years in the tending.

The Grape Ivy is most definitely done for - not enough new potting material, 20 years I have had that one and it has more or less died.

So is it the house and its temperature and bio-climate? or is it the cost of being a busy councillor with insufficient time to care for these precious and much-loved residents?

Any green-fingered volunteers with baby bio and time to spare would be very welcome to come round and see to them all.

Belle Vale - great name for what will be an all-women ward

Belle Vale is aiming to become the first ward in Liverpool with three women councillors.

We have had and still have lots of all men wards, but this will be the first all women ward if Claire Wilner is elected.

What a great story about Liverpool, about the representation of women in local politics, about how well women are doing in the city. Labour now has 17 women and 19 men in the Labour group. How many will it be after May 1st?

Women are just slightly more than half the population of the country, or the city, it will be a great day when women are slightly more than half the population of the city council, but the LibDems are going to have to start joining in with the campaign to get more women elected as councillors if we are to achieve this. I see the Greens are looking for a 50:50 split in their representation come May 1st if they are to be successful in winning a second seat.

The Tories are of course nowhere, with no chance of being anywhere, despite Chris Grayling's wild optimism. And the Liberal Party is on 1 out of 3 which is not unreasonable given their poor base.

In the name of all the strong women Liverpool has ever produced, let's get a few more elected!

Slapping own wrist

I have had an email today from Councillor Paul Clein (LibDem, resigned from his Executive Post last week in disgust about the LibDem leadership), wanting to discuss some of the issues in our latest letter to voters.

I feel obliged to slap myself on the wrist, very publicly, having criticised Mike Storey for sending me a "postal vote" letter when he should have known better. What is the point in writing to a councillor from the party we are in opposition to.

Bad bad woman Louise, don't do it again!

Campaign meeting tonight

We had a city campaign meeting tonight. All looking good, our campaigns are all going well, Labour Promises are surpassing targets already in some wards and we have four weeks to go.

I've been looking for funny stories, I know you love them, but they have been thin on the ground so far.

Let me share a story with you though about a lady in Anfield who submitted a petition in 2005 to the LibDems and who has never heard another word, until remarkably Councillors Quinn, Storey and Bradley turned up on her doorstep yesterday. She asked them if there was an election due and even while she was telling us the tale, Cllr Quinn turned up again.

Do they really think the electorate are stupid? Answer on that postage stamp please!

Anyway, it is all looking very positive in our key seats but some extra people to help with the door-knocking is always welcome.

Some seats have obviously already been abandoned by the LibDems, much as they did in Speke Garston last year (and you know which wards I mean, LibDem readers) and we are pleased to have a free run at them, and some wards are putting up a bit of a fight and some dont even seem to know we are coming for them. It is all going to be very good fun and I cannot wait until the count.

Environment Regulatory Committee

I had a training session this afternoon for this committee which is quite new to me.

We learnt that one of the powers we have as a committee concerns closing hot-food take-aways and got very excited - I only have to look at the madness that is Kensington and Prescot Road to see how "out of hand" it has all become. However it appears that the powers are about closing times rather than closing down. We can apparently limit opening hours up to midnight. This power is very much new to me and I have asked for further information and clarification. There is at least one take-away that I would have shut down at midnight, if not altogether, so I am very intersted to learn more.

Total Policing Day in Kensington and Fairfield

Quite apart from the Minister's visit, today was Total Policing Day in Kensington and Fairfield where the police focussed on local community residents' intelligence to raid a number of addresses and look for drugs or stolen items from burglaries etc.

In collaboration with other crime prevention organisations, one particular raid discovered an illict DVD manufacturing factory in a residential property.

I was due to visit the station during the day to see how they were doing, but they were so successful that the Sergeant was busy booking in suspects into the custody suite and the cells on Wavertree Road when I planned to call in.

Well done Richie for organising it and everyone on the staff for a great day's policing

Ministerial visit to trumpet community policing in Kensington

We were very pleased to welcome Meg Hillier, Home Office minister to Kensington today.

Before her "official" business, in her own time, she gave up some time to meet available LP candidates across the city and talk to them about local crime and policing issues. She also got on the phones and rang some Fairfield residents to ask about their views about community policing. It was very funny that she rang one lady, quite by chance, who was putting her coat on, on the way to meeting her at a later meeting in her programme. Truly unplanned, one of those special moments where everything comes together.

She then had a meeting with the partners in our highly successful Kensington and Fairfield police and crime initiative - the regular police, the PCSOs, C7 ASB officer, Chris Flood, local residents from the Community Safety Working Group on Kensington Regeneration, and their community staff, and others, to learn from us about how well we all work together, being in touch on a daily basis by phone or email to update each other about ongoing crime prevention, reduction and solutions. The wardens were there in spirit if not in actuality.

She was very impressed with the partnership working arrangements, she said we were leading the way in the whole country and that the Government should take this chance to learn from us about the way we all work together as a partnership.

A great meeting. She was very warm and truly interested in what the residents had to say.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tories campaigning in Liverpool

Apparently the Conservative's Merseyside Spokesperson and shadow minister for work was in Liverpool last week, campaigning.

He has a nerve!

Mind you he made some very good points about the failure of this LibDem authority to make the most of the money that Capital of Culture has brought into the city. And about the totally botched HMRI scheme on Edge Lane.

However, his comments about what the Tories would do if they held the balance of power in Liverpool after May were frankly laughable. I dont think they poll more than about 200 votes in any seats in the city and in Warbreck they got less than a 2%share of the vote. I dont know why he wastes his time coming over.

Your Game 2008 comes to Liverpool - and Kensington gets a plug

Siddi has sent me an interesting article about Your Game 2008 which came to Liverpool this year. The article is from a BBC website. There is also a five minute film which is great, definitely worth watching, Siddi is interviewed in his "full traditional dress, wearing an incongruous Liverpool scarf.

United Colours of Kensington were runners-up!

Do watch it

BNP fail in bid to stop postal votes

Saturday, 29 March 2008

From the Huddersfield Daily Examiner

THE British National Party has failed in its bid to stop postal voting
in Kirklees.

The BNP has three members on Kirklees Council but their supporter’s
bid to halt the postal vote at the forthcoming May elections was

The action by the BNP member was turned down at Bradford County Court.

At the hearing yesterday the application for an injunction to stop the
Returning Officer from issuing postal ballot papers was refused by the
judge, who also made the BNP pay the council’s costs.

"This was simply a gimmick by the BNP to get cheap publicity.

“Postal voting is part of electoral law that all councils follow.

“All the BNP has done is waste the time of council officers by going
through the process of addressing what was always going to be a futile
action by the perpetrators of this bogus case.

“The judge clearly considered that the application was ill-conceived
by not only rejecting the application but also in awarding the council
its costs against the BNP.

“It is an absolute waste of time to challenge statute in this

BNP group chairman Clr Roger Roberts said it was a move made by an
individual member, not a councillor.

But he added: “I would personally support the idea.

“Postal voting is fine for the disabled and the elderly but it is
very open to fraud.

“When you get 20 votes coming out of a one-bedroom flat, it is
patently wrong.”

Huddersfield Examiner

Sonny's christening in Kirkby

My friend Sharon's baby Sonny was christened today at St Chad's in Kirkby and I took a few hours off from campaigning to attend the service and the party. There were five babies baptised in one service, it was great - although no hymns.

A great party afterwards too, hordes of people, lots of food and professional children's entertainers to keep the littlies occupied. It was lovely to go somewhere where elections and campaigning were not the main topic of conversation, a bit of "real life".

Another busy campaign weekend

What a shame that Saturday was such bad weather, door-knocking is not much fun in the rain but today has been lovely.

Still we had a couple of good door-knocking sessions in Kensington and Fairfield and got on the phones when rain stopped play. I also did a session in Anfield with Brian which went very well.

Printed, folded and stuffed lots of direct mail too.

It's all busy, busy, busy

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Labour's vision for Liverpool, 2008

This is the headline manifesto, there are supporting documents and policy detail sitting behind these pledges, and contextual information about the current situation, however, I dont have the text for that here.

Labour’s vision for Liverpool 2008

A Location for Learning & Achievement

We want every child to have the right skills and knowledge to fulfil their potential free from the effects of poverty and we will build a youth service fit for the 21st Century.

• We will focus relentlessly on achievement with more pupils achieving 5 good GCSEs (grades A*- C including English and Maths), all schools achieving consistently high Contextual Value Added (CVA) scores, reduced truancy levels and more schools judged to be good or better by OFSTED.

• We will build new state-of-the art secondary schools and refurbish existing schools through Building Schools for the Future.

• We will support schools to be centres of their community by extending opportunities to children outside the normal school day.

• We will set up a new multi-agency Child Poverty Unit that will agree and oversee action to tackle the impact of child poverty in Liverpool.

• We will respond to the needs of children with disabilities and special educational needs and their families and carers.

• We will provide long-term funding for quality youth provision based on the needs of our young people and their communities.

A City Which Creates & Shares Prosperity

We will work hand in hand with business to bring more jobs to all parts of Liverpool. We will promote jobs for local people in everything we do.

• We will use our year as European Capital of Culture as a catalyst for rejuvenating our culturally diverse communities and to build a legacy post 2008.

• We will support and promote Liverpool’s heritage, art, culture and tourism post 2008.

• We will improve support for inward investment and entrepreneurship to create the jobs of the future and encourage small and medium sized enterprises and micro enterprises to expand and employ more local people.

• We will expand the use of planning gain to invest in the city’s social infrastructure, improve skills and secure community benefits.

• We will increase apprenticeships and training for skills geared towards future market needs.

• We will develop the one-stop shop for the private/business sector.

• We will work closely with Trade Unions to ensure best practice terms and conditions are secured for Liverpool workers and will engage in a “living wage” campaign.

Building Decent Homes

We want every home in Liverpool to be a decent home. We will deliver more homes for rent and more affordable homes in mixed, sustainable neighbourhoods.

• We will deliver 8000 homes for rent/shared ownership in the next eight years.

• We will facilitate people to be able to take derelict homes and bring them back into use.

• We will work towards ensuring all newly built homes are carbon and water neutral where possible. New homes should be life-time homes.

• We will limit the growth of buy-to-let apartments where they undermine Housing Market Renewal.

• We will introduce a Local Allocations Policy giving local people an influence on who is housed in their area.

• We will use the power to introduce selective licensing where private landlords are contributing to housing market failure and anti-social behaviour by mismanaging tenancies.

A Stronger, Safer Liverpool

We will crack down on anti-social behaviour using the tough powers given to councils.

• We will deliver strong and co-ordinated action to prevent young people from getting caught up in gun and gang culture, drugs, crime and anti-social behaviour.

• We will be tough on anti-social behaviour making full use of ASBOs and ABCs and we will use the planning framework to design out crime in our neighbourhoods.

• We will work with the police, licensing authority and primary care trust to crack down on under age drinking.

• We will ensure that youth workers are on the streets on Friday and Saturday nights to work with young people who are drinking alcohol.

Responsible Finances

We will transform Liverpool from being the lowest performing council in the country to being a well run financially stable authority which balances the need to keep council tax low and provide high quality services.

• We will consult widely on the council tax rate and priorities for spending and keep spending within available resources and focused on those priorities.

• We will strive to offer best value, cut out waste and lower costs on a permanent basis.

• We will strive to maximise grant income

A Cleaner, Greener Liverpool

We will bring in a step change in recycling with weekly collection of rubbish and we will crack down on environmental crime like litter, graffiti and flytipping.

• We will aim to make Liverpool one of the greenest core city authorities, by making kerbside recycling available to all homes and encouraging more people to recycle.

• We will become a role model for other big cities in cracking down on environmental crime, ensuring that resources are targeted at areas of greatest need.

• We will work with the community to make our parks cleaner and safer for all residents to use and enjoy. We will introduce park wardens.

• We will develop and enhance the dog warden team so that they can concentrate on finding stray dogs and enforcing dog fouling legislation.

• We will encourage local businesses to assess their carbon footprint and introduce measures to limit their energy consumption.

A Healthy Place to Live, Work & Play

We will use the Council’s well being powers to enhance the life chances for the people of Liverpool so that they live longer, healthier and happier lives.

• We will stop the closure of our care homes and day centres and we will create Centres of Excellence at each, specialising in individual aspects of elderly care.

• We will increase the number of people who receive help to allow them to remain living independently in their own homes.

• We will build on Government initiatives to improve sport and leisure activities to promote healthy living and access for all.

• We will increase spending on welfare rights for older people to maximise benefit entitlements.

• We will support projects designed to ensure a better work/life balance for parents with young families.

Empowering Communities

We will devolve power and spending away from the Town Hall down to neighbourhoods.

• We will devolve a significant element of the Working Neighbourhoods budget and other sources of funding to ward councillors to ensure that local priorities are met and community cohesion enhanced.

• We will strengthen and deepen Neighbourhood Area Agreements so that more power is rooted locally.

• We will consult widely on budget setting to involve business, the voluntary sector, community groups and other stakeholders.

• We will promote the delivery of street services by social enterprise, employing local people accountable to residents.

• We will integrate the network of One Stop Shops with Neighbourhood Services Teams providing a comprehensive facility for local people.

• We will ensure that all contracts and commitments to joint ventures are subject to rigorous independent audit and a public scrutiny process.

Coverage on the Labour Manifesto 2008 launch

Daily Post and Liverpool Echo both ran with the launch. There was a great photo in the Echo but they dont show it on the website, only in the newspaper. Joe and Hazel with lots of candidates and party members at the event last night.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Trading standards alert concerning Liverpool Liberal Democrat website

I just noticed that the LibDem website in Liverpool is subtitled "Taking Liverpool to the Top". I am not linking to it of course, but you could probably find it if you wanted to.

Surely Trading Standards should be on to them?

They are taking Liverpool to the top in the same way that, very sadly, McLaren took England to the top.

And there is an important poll I see, about Labour's policy on bin collections. I hope you all give that the serious contemplation it clearly deserves! (We made our policy for weekly collections clear in a public vote in March 2007, and have repeated it in our manifesto for 2008, just for the record)

Labour Government gives Liverpool £30million for roads

That's it really, it is too late at night for me to type the story up for you. I just read it in the newspaper. £30million for better roads.

So that is £110million so far this week, from our Labour Government to this city.

And still the LibDems insist that they get a raw deal from our Labour Government.

Last night's full council meeting

In the midst of all the drama I have not commented on last night's council meeting.

A sizeable demonstration of opponents to the cuts in elderly services and the cuts in some of the grants the city gives greeted us. They kept up their chanting and their demonstration throughout the evening, although most were confined to the streets outside the Town Hall as for some reason only about two dozen were actually allowed inside to our "public meeting" and that was only because councillors insisted. Some credit needs to go to Councillor Sir Trevor Jones for supporting our requests to let people in.

We began with a series of short speeches from members of the public. A professional health worker, begging the LibDems not to lose the vital services at Boaler Street and Leighton Dene centres for the elderly. A man from the Chinese community, begging the LibDems not to close the Pagoda Centre and reminding councillors of how much the Chinese community has supported the City of Culture this year (and indeed every year). A young woman from the Fazakerley Special Needs project whose funding has been slashed, begging the LibDems to change their plans, as the project now faces closure. A man from the Liverpool 8 Law Centre which offers legal help to people in the Toxteth area, principally members of the black community fighting things like race hate crime.

The financial mismanagement of this council has not just meant a one-star rating and the unfortunate resulting badge of "the worst council in the country" but also it has meant slashes in funding and cuts in services to all those people who most need it. Shameful.

We had four debates, I wont go into them all, we were there for hours, but the one I want to focus on was the debate around Labour's motion to keep Boaler Street and Leighton Dene open. As the debate began 24 LibDem councillors chose this moment to get up from their seats and wander out of the chamber to get a cup of tea, or go for a ciggy and a chat with their mates (or perhaps a slanging match with their enemies in some cases?)

Fewer than half of their group remained in their seats to listen to the arguments.

This disgraceful and dismissive behaviour was of course witnessed by the members of the public present, including staff, carers and service users from all the organisations who spoke at the start of the meeting.

They pretty much all trooped back in for the voting - they voted against our plans to keep the centres open of course, all except Frank Doran. He voted in the debate before the Boaler Street one, and in the vote after the Boaler Street one, but for the debate about saving the centre in his own ward, he was absent.

He either didnt think it important enough or was too frightened of the public reaction. Perhaps he thinks that by not voting to close the centre on this motion we wont be able to point to him in the election campaign literature. But of course a failure to vote to support the centre, a failure to speak in the debate, a failure to listen to the debate is more damning.

Wendy spoke very well, she understands how vital intermediate care is, as Labour's Deputy on Health and Adult Social Care, she knows her stuff.

There were times during the evening when some of the LibDems could not bear to look at each other.

That was the last ordinary council meeting of the municipal year, I pray it will be the last one where the LibDems are in charge.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

It's all kicked off, and in some places it is kicking off, in Liverpool

Labour launched its vision for Liverpool, 2008 today.

I will load the text up here over the weekend.

We had a manifesto launch at the Devonshire House Hotel, joined by no less a person than Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and three local MPs (all women, all four!)

Councillor Joe Anderson launched our 8 pledges for 08 (actually there are about 25 pledges but they are in 8 broad themes). I am really proud of the manifesto, although this being the policy convenor lark is a lot more involved and intense than I could have imagined.

We celebrated our new candidates, our retiring councillors and four party stalwarts who have given over 200 years service to the Labour Party between them. It was very moving actually, I had a tear in my eye more than once. No, I did, really.

Everyone is absolutely committed to working hard, campaigning hard, engaging residents, talking to people and more importantly, listening to them; to getting our message and our candidates out in the community(lots of young faces, lots of women as well as many of our long-standing and senior councillors are standing this year.)

Liam hopes to put his nomination papers in tomorrow, on the first possible day at the first possible hour, that is how keen this particular young man is to stand up and be counted.

Elsewhere it has been a busy day. We had a public meeting in the Alex on Farnworth Street, next to the Boaler Street rehab and respite centre, to discuss the campaign to keep the centre open. It was a really good turnout, people are so angry about the closures and the loss of valued staff with specialist skills too. Another 300 petition signatures arrived in the post today. Local residents at the meeting pledged to sign up 1000 in the next week too, which will push our total up even higher. I have not had chance to count them all yet but would think we are already at something like 3000.

The Echo is now receiving postcards every day too, from local residents who want to see the two centres kept open. I think they have had about 300 so far - so they will have to start taking notice soon, and not just put out the kind of one-sided biaised stuff like they did in yesterday's paper. Otherwise I can see an Echo boycott on the cards, right across the city, from ordinary residents who feel gagged.

And the other news today from the LibDem "bag of ferrets" in Liverpool is that hot on the heels of the three deselections comes the resignation of Councillor Paul Clein, the Executive Member for Children's Services (Education, essentially).

He has not resigned his seat, nor from the party but from his portfolio. As far as I could work out he was saying that he is happy with the LibDems as a party but not happy with the leadership of this particular LibDem party here in Liverpool. He accuses them of putting personal power ahead of policy or principle.

To quote his email to the LibDem group "In my view the Liberal Democrat group on Liverpool City Council exists to deliver Liberal Democrat policies and Liberal Democrat principles. It does not and should not exist having as its main purpose merely to maintain a small, increasingly illiberal clique in positions of power, positions whose main focus seems to have become obsessive revenge. That must change or our group will soon become increasingly politically irrelevant."

He particularly criticises the LibDem leader of Liverpool and the former leader, for the way they punish those who challenge them - citing two of the deselections in particular.

Another astonishing revelation today was contained in an email from deselected Councillor Firth, in his email to his LibDem colleagues, where he repeats for their benefit an email that he received from Councillor Warren Bradley, now leader of Liverpool City Council, back in 2002.

It says "You have just confirmed to me that you are a complete and utter t---, and you have never lived in the real world, get a life and you might just realise that that rosy little cup that you drink out of will eventually crack, this is when all the people will see what I saw a long time ago. How you can represent people from this City or anywhere else is a joke and I am absolutely convinced that your little gravy train will come to an abrupt halt as you hit the buffers of life, and see what life actually brings once you raise your head above the parapit".

And that, dear reader, is the way our great and glorious leader writes to his own colleagues!

Dear me, no wonder Councillor Paul Clein felt it incumbent upon himself to resign his position today, on the basis that by staying in the cabinet some people might think he was offering "tacit approval of this disgraceful episode."

I had wondered how those LibDems with a history in the Liberal Party would be taking all the illiberalism their group were demonstrating, and now I know - they don't like it! Good for him for taking a principled stand.

I hardly dare to open the paper each morning, for more shock revelations. Will there be anyone left standing when the dust settles?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

500th blog post - Grrrr

How annoying that my 500th blog post was the "imprint" post.

I have considered deleting one, just to change the facts, but the truth will out. So there you are, nonsense from the Electoral Commission has taken my milestone away.

I guess I have to make the 501st blog post count instead.

So how about this?

Some guy named David Semple has had lots to say about this blog on his own blog.

Various young people, one aged 23 from Belfast and one aged 19 from the Isle of Wight obviously think I am about as interesting as watching grass grow.

This is what they have to say about my blog

"Several blogs have firmly put paid to that admittedly rather quaint national chauvinism. Regrettably these blogs are all Labourite and all from women. The feather that broke the camel’s back was this blog by one Louise Baldock. Not the worst I’ve seen by a long way (we’ll come to those in a moment), but yet another example of extremely parochial politics, if you can call it that.

It is predictable in form; mentions every campaign event the woman, a councillor in Liverpool, has attended, assorted personal minutiae and not a controversial statement (or seemingly an original thought) in sight. Fine. Nothing offensive. A tad dry, but I suppose every local Labour Party needs someone to keep everyone else informed as to what the local organisation has been doing.

Except this is a Labour councillor; an elected official. Elected to Liverpool City Council no less, one of the former centres of left wing firebrands who, for all their shortcomings, showed more cojones than the entire labour establishment in standing up to Thatcher’s government. If this type of politically vacuous managerialism, mentioning a campaign here or there and criticising the Lib Dem leader of the council, is what Liverpool has been reduced to then that’s a depressing thing."

I have been thinking about this blog entry since I read it yesterday. (Yes of course I google for my own name, what elected politician doesn't? It is not ego - whatever Berni Turner might think, it is merely checking the online "cuttings".)

What does it actually say about me and the blog?

It says that the blog is parochial. Yes, it is, definitely parochial. That is because I represent only one ward in Liverpool, not the whole country. It is of course the best ward in Liverpool, with the best people, and the most interesting national projects being rolled out in this area with high rates of deprivation; the biggest New Deal community in the country, the controversial HMRI, Community Policing, maybe even Selective Licensing for Landlords if I can ever win the vote on this in council.

I represent Kensington and Fairfield and I said very clearly when I was elected that I would use every tool in the kit to reach my constituents. I go to every TRA I get invited to (still have not been able to break into the secretive Parks Partnership, but am welcome everywhere else as far as I can tell). I write letters, I knock on doors on a rota across the ward, I phone residents where I can find their phone numbers, I stand on street stalls, I hold weekly surgeries, I put out leaflets and newsletters, I attend social events, parties and exhibitions and I blog. All are necessary to engage with local people.

David says I mention every campaign event I go to. Actually I mention lots of community events and lots of campaign events, but by no means all of them, sometimes you have to keep your powder dry and I dont tell about stuff that I dont want the LibDems to hi-jack, but the community knows that I will always be there if they want me to be - and they usually do.

And then he says that every community needs someone to tell them what is happening.

To quote Homer, well Duhh!

What does this man think a locally elected councillor is all about if not talking about community activity and campaigns?

And then he says I should be a firebrand, a true Bessie Braddock, or maybe a John Hamilton, or who does he mean? Who from Kensington and Fairfield would he rather I emulate? How about David Alton? He was a great councillor, that is what more or less every resident tells me, because he was parochial and interested in the minutae, but as soon as he got to Westminster he became, they tell me, remote. And frankly that is to a certain degree inevitable if you have to spend four days a week outside of your patch. They stopped supporting him on the day he left them, at a personal level.

Our MP is Rt Hon Jane Kennedy and she is out every Friday, Saturday and most Sundays on the stump. She probably delivers more leaflets than any other MP in the country, she knocks on doors, turns up for events, writes thousands of letters, pushes all sorts of campaigns. She does as much, if not more, than any nationally based politician (with a big ministerial portfolio too) can do in her own constituency.

But I am not a national politician and I dont have to go to London all week. Thank Heavens! I am always in Kensington, always in Fairfield, I even work in the ward now, albeit only part-time.

And finally I am accused of being bland, of not rocking the boat, of not being offensive, of being vaccuous.

Only someone who does not live in Kensington and Fairfield could think that.

The LibDems think of me as their own personal Bête noire.

I am top of the list of councillors who most other councillors love to hate, and the proof of that is in the numbers who come on here to criticise me.

These young people who contribute to this blog are to be championed for their political fire, for their passion and their interest. But they need to understand that a successful blog does not just have to be yet another contribution to the "Gordon Brown, is he great or dire" or "What Harriet did next" debate.

I have lots of thoughts about our national position but that is NOT what this Blog was set up for, and not what my readers come here for. I am not here as a national politico, not as an apologist, not as an opponent, not as a supporter. I am not here to be truly boring and vaccuous adding yet another voice to the question about whether the Embryology Bill should be opposed or supported for instance.

Get this, I am a LOCAL councillor, and this is, as I told the conference in London last week, a LOCAL blog for LOCAL people. I owe them my undivided attention.

Sorry young people on "Though Cowards Flinch", this councillor NEVER flinches from representing those 10000 electors and their family.

Wait until you become a representative and then you will understand. Local politics is vitally important, in my experience only those residents who achieve satisfaction locally can truly engage in national politics.

But thanks anyway for giving me an interesting topic for the "should have been" 500th blog posting.


All entries on this blog are made in a strictly personal capacity. However, during election periods, where a post relates to campaigning, please consider the following "imprint". This post is promoted by Louise Baldock on behalf of the Labour Party, 108 Prescot Road, Liverpool, L7
I realise this is nonsense, but the law requires it.
Thank you
Louise Baldock

£80 million housing boost for Liverpool, courtesy of your Labour Government

Now there's something you don't see very often - Louise quoting a Liverpool City Council press release

City gains £80 million housing boost

· Liverpool to get nearly 1,000 new affordable homes
· City receives large slice of biggest ever Housing Corp investment
· Homes will have lower carbon footprints than ever before

LIVERPOOL has secured a £38 million Housing Corporation grant (and where do they get it from do you think?) to help increase the number of affordable homes in the city.

The sum, which is nearly 50 per cent up on the previous allocation, will provide more than £80 million investment into affordable homes with additional private finance.

The money will provide nearly 1,000 new or refurbished homes for sale or rent to families at reasonable prices. Most schemes will be concentrated in Housing Market Renewal areas but developments in Norris Green, Dovecot, Lee Valley and Garston will also be included.

Councillor Marilyn Fielding, Liverpool’s executive member for housing and neighbourhood services, said: “This is a huge investment by the Housing Corporation and we could even get more in subsequent stages. (Try not to mention the Labour Government Marilyn, it might choke you)

“It shows quite clearly that we are getting things right here in Liverpool - a ringing endorsement of the city council’s housing policy. (Or perhaps it shows that our Labour government takes the affordable housing shortage in Liverpool seriously?)

“The Housing Corporation relies on the council to scrutinise all bids from registered social landlords to make sure they are deliverable and cost effective, fit in with the council’s corporate plan and ensure the city gets the right type of high-quality accommodation that meets housing needs. The fact that we have received such a large grant shows the Housing Corporation’s confidence in the work that is being done.” (Or that they recognise the need for more houses, given that most of the ones we let you get your hands on in HMRI areas are still boarded up!)

The schemes will be delivered over the next three years and will support the city’s strategic priorities of improving quality and choice of housing for the residents of Liverpool, particularly those who are being re-housed as part of the regeneration of priority neighbourhoods.

The Housing Corporations £8.4 Billion National Affordable Housing Programme is the largest investment in its history. Nationally it will provide at least 155,000 new affordable homes in the next three years, almost double the number compared to 2006-2008. (What is the betting that this is one Government Agency that Councillor Makinson will not quickly rebadge as a "Labour" one?)

The new allocations successfully meet the Corporations higher standards for both value and quality. They require lower grant per home, while delivering higher design standards, an increase in larger homes, and a step change reduction in their carbon footprint, saving more than 90,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

The North West will receive £526 million for affordable housing of which just 60% has been allocated so far. The remainder will be allocated through on a quarterly basis starting April 2008.

Thank you Labour Government for understanding how important affordable housing is and for putting masses of money where your mouth is!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Message from the Head of Sports and Recreation Services on Liverpool City Council

As a result of the Budget Saving Options agreed at the recent City Council meeting there are a number of facilities whose budgets have been reduced and as a result we need to review the opening hours at those specific sites to meet the budget available. These include Austin Rawlinson Sports Centre, Park Road Sports Centre & Liverpool Tennis Centre. Facility Managers have assessed usage patterns at those respective sites the new opening hours will take effect from Monday 14th April. School usage and regular user group activities will not be affected by the new proposals.

They have also agreed to close New Hall baths in Fazakerley, only 12 months after refurbishing them.

Contrast this with the new pool opening this month in Picton.

Guess who represents Picton? Yup, Council leader Warren Bradley and former Council leader Mike Storey. (Actually they represent Wavertree ward, what I think I meant to say was that Picton Pool is in their Wavertree ward).

Boaler Street Rehab and Respite Centre

Another 300 names on the petition arrived in the post today - a couple of dozen on our local leaflet and about 250 on petition sheets, organised by local residents in their areas.

The strength of feeling against these planned cuts is huge.

I understand there was a street stall at Broadway on Saturday, against the two closures, Boaler Street and Leighton Dene, and people were queueing to sign.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Action Weekend

It might be freezing cold, windy and trying to snow, but we have not let it stop us

Leafletting, telephoning, door-knocking, street stalls; we have been busy all weekend in Kensington. And it starts again in about an hour, I just had to time to pop on here before I go back out in my woolies for another session.

Dont tell anyone but we have just nudged over 50% share of the vote in the latest stats - I dont know how much share I got, but it wasnt as much as that, 40% perhaps, and Wendy probably a bit more because the Liberals didnt stand last year.

Obviously you have to get supporters out to vote, just finding them and recording them isn't enough, but it makes me feel good that so many are out there.

We have got well over 1000 names on our Boaler Street Old People's petition too, and it has been going only a week.

I love elections.

Liverpool LibDems tearing lumps out of each other

Two more LibDem Councillors have been deselected this week according to local reports.

Kevin Firth has been deselected in Old Swan - where he topped the poll in 2004, apparently because he dared to question the leadership over their management of the Mathew Street debacle last year.

Ann Hines has been deselected in West Derby ward - I dont know why in her case.

Added to Beatrice Fraenkel that is three this time - and we already knew that Beatrice was deselected for being critical of the leadership.

I would rather be in our party where we can speak our mind freely in Labour Group if we feel we need to, but where we stand shoulder to shoulder as a group in public, than be a LibDem. They pretend to allow freedom of speech but actually throw popular councillors out of office for daring to criticise their leadership. And that is criticism in private, within their own meetings, not criticism in the newspapers.

Keep it up LibDems!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

LibDem defence of the need to shut the centres at Boaler Street and Leighton Dene

Email from Frank Doran, LibDem councillor in Kensington and Fairfield to a select few residents he is hoping to get on side, at least four of which are card carrying Labour Party members - but no matter, if that is how good his targetting is then good luck to him.

Dear All,

I thought I would clarify some of the issues surrounding Boaler St AP hostel. The premises were part of a scheme were the Council were working with the PCT to deal with the bed blocking issue at the Royal teaching hospital. In view of some misleading information being rolled out in the area I thought I would clarify the issue. That clarification is attached.

If you have any further information you would like me to clarify, then please let me know.

(Yes please Frank, please clarify how closing these rehab and respite centres will assist with the bed blocking issue at the Royal?)

With best Wishes.
Frank Doran.
Councillor for kensington and Fairfield

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Bradley, Warren \(Leader of the City Council\)"

To: ,
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2008 14:39:44 -0000
Subject: Leighton Dene & Boaler St Short-term Respite Facilities.

For Publication.

Dear Sir,

With Reference to Stephen Twigg's letter on the 18th March 2008, please accept this response as the present factual position:

Officers are clear that the re-provision of the services currently provided at these facilities needs to be carefully and sensitively handled, and given the extent of changes in adult social care in recent years imposed by the Labour Government, this is frankly not new territory.

Short-term respite care services provided by Liverpool City Council will continue at alternative sites; the Council has no intention of discontinuing the service, despite the Labour opposition's ignorance of the factual position.

Key Points:

The two establishments provide intense rehabilitation for a few weeks for some people leaving hospital. They are not "homes" and shouldn't be referred to as such.

The beds at the two establishments constitute only 6% of the total beds available for this type of support in Liverpool.

Alternative arrangements will be in place before we start to implement the restructure. This will be a combination of in-house and private sector residential homes, along with opportunities using released funds to assist people's rehabilitation in their own home; where this is requested.

The re-structure is not a service cut; we are moving away from expensive
bed based provision which will enable us to help more people and give them more choice over the type of help they want and where.

Enabling people to leave hospital safely and promptly once medically fit for
discharge remains a key priority for the Council and PCT working closely together.

Over the last few years the numbers of people waiting for social care support to leave hospital has gone down massively, a trend of which the Council is proud. New arrangements as outlined above will have no adverse impact on this achievement and our continuing commitment to people who require such a service.

This commitment is city wide and modernising the way service is provided will not adversely affect any area of the city.

The Reprovision of Older People's Mental Health Services

Of course the day facilities and respite resource for older people with mental health problems currently provided at Leighton Dene will continue.

Current plans are to relocate the day facilities to Norris Green and the respite resource to Sedgemoor Residential Home. Regarding the day facilities, the necessary changes can be made without disruption to the group already attending Norris Green. Regarding the respite resource, Sedgemoor has eleven vacancies and can offer
the service, again with minimum disruption.

This is a coherent way forward, which will not adversely affect people who require short-term respite facilities, Stephen Twigg and the Labour party will be aware that other council's up and down the country have re-structured in a similar way.

Yours sincerely
Councillor Warren Bradley
Leader of Liverpool City Council

Well now, fair's fair, you have to give them their chance to defend themselves.

However, it is all wrong on so many points.

1. Warren Bradley says we should be clear that Boaler Street Rehab Unit is not a home, but a centre. (Frank thinks it is an AP hostel, whatever that is, answers on a postcard please, he voted to shut it down but doesnt even know what it is.)

It might not be a home now, but it used to be a home Warren until a few years ago, when the LiDems shut it down and said the future lay in rehab and respite!

2. The Labour Government has not said we should close down respite and rehab units, quite the reverse, they have suggested these are the future in terms of managing bed-blocking. This is cynical cost-cutting at its worst.

3. I see in Cllr Bradley's letter that he says "we are moving away from expensive bed based provision which will enable us to help more people and give them more choice over the type of help they want and where."

Does he even know what this means? Frank Doran obviously doesn’t. How could they vote for this nonsense?

These beds in Boaler Street, in the centre (not a home no, not any more) are for people to sleep in when they are in respite care because their carers need a rest away from them. These beds in Boaler Street are also for rehab, for people who are well enough to leave hospital but not well enough to go home yet.

If the LibDem plans are to "move away" from bed based provision, how can either of these services be provided?

Will we ask people to sleep standing up? Or to go home just before bed-time and then come back just before breakfast?

Getting a good night's sleep is vital for carers and they often don’t get it, which is why respite is so important as it gives them a clear night's sleep uninterrupted. Or at least it did until Warren Bradley and Frank Doran decided you could manage this without the person you care for actually leaving home.

What kind of choice are we offering people here? Given that Warren Bradley says it is all about giving people choice.

None at all apparently, you cannot sleep overnight if you need respite care and you cannot sleep overnight if you need rehab - it is too expensive they say. Our people are not worth it the money apparently.

Perhaps we could offer people the opportunity to have their spare bedroom decorated and then if they felt they needed a change they could try sleeping in there instead?

Still it gives us another empty council building, another lack of council services, to mock the residents with. They will be pleased that their councillor, Frank Doran, has voted for the ending of yet another facility in Kensington and Fairfield.

Rites of Passage

I went to a fantastic photography exhibition this morning, where I was met and shown round by the two artists responsible. Leila Romaya, Photographer and Paul McCann the audio and film artist for the project.

The exhibition is called Rites of Passage and features the lives of older Liverpool residents who are now recalling their younger days. The photos are their most precious ones from throughout their lives.

The nine featured include some L7 people including;

Marion Browne, Edge Hill who has a passion for local history and has spoken to me before about her life and her stories;

One of Marion's photos in her part of the exhibition features a little boy in an old black and white photograph, named Henry Dous, a Belgian. The photo was brought back from the war by Marion's father, who carried it with him in his wallet until the day he died. Marion says her father received a medal for bravery in the second world ward for activity in Belgium and wonders if this little boy is relevant to the tale. She is now trying to trace him, to find out if he is still alive, he would have been born in the 1930s judging by what we know about the dates. It would be a wonderful postscript to the exhibition if she could solve the mystery.

Any genealogists out there, do start digging!

Armando Capaldi, a Liverpool born man of Italian origin who is a retired Café Owner, famous throughout the area for his café which trades under his name on Kensington. I saw some of his photos at a taster event at the Liverpolitalia event last year at the Academy. He used to have a cafe on Wavertree Road years ago.

George Davis, ex-Edge Hill resident of 30 years, now lives in West Derby;

Edwin Chimế originally from Nigeria, who was the Lollipop Man ushering St Anne’s Primary School children across busy Wavertree Road at the Marmaduke Street / Overbury Street crossing for many years.

Christofis Theopanous, Greek Cypriot, had connections with St. Anne’s Primary School, Overbury Street, and retired last week from running a Chippie in L8 for 40 years.

Great people with great stories and great photos.

The exhibition is on the third floor of St George's Hall and is free and is open Tuesday –Sunday 10-5pm until April 18th. You cannot fail to love it.

A Liver Bird Sang!

From an email I received recently...

On behalf of the writers and cast of A Liver Bird Sang! I want to draw your attention to a new musical show being premièred at The Picket, Jordan Street, Liverpool L1 OBW from Tuesday 1st to Saturday 5th April.

This remarkable new show, written specially for Liverpool 08, is an outstanding example of how the European Capital of Culture concept has inspired Liverpudlians and drawn out exceptionally creative talents which might otherwise have remained totally undiscovered.

A Liver Bird Sang! is a story about modern life and love set in Liverpool’s clubland. It has been written by a very gifted Liverpudlian musician, Geoff Lavelle, and librettist/lyricist extraordinaire John Dixon, a veterinary scientist from Liverpool University. The cast, a mixture of professional and semi-professional singers, actors and musicians, are all from in or around Liverpool. Everyone involved has given their time and their not inconsiderable skills freely because of their enthusiam for and belief in this project. Its European dimension is its music, which is based entirely on the works of Schubert.

Full details of this musical can be found on their website. On the website you can also hear short excerpts from some of the show’s 24 songs. If you have the time, could we recommend Round Liverpool, Back in the City of Liverpool and All in the Mind as they give a very good idea of the scope and variety of the music and the “transmogrification” from the original Schubert. You can access these songs directly

It will be the first time that a musical has ever been staged at The Picket and, if it had not been for the unstinting support and help from Manager Phil Hayes and his team, it might never have got off the ground at all.

Go and see it!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kensington Vision FM Community Radio Presentation afternoon

I went this afternoon to a celebration of KVFM, Kensington's Community Radio Station which ran for two weeks in November.

Wendy Simon and I were lucky enough to host our own two hour show which you should be able to download here on the 2nd December page in the archives on "my podcast" and we really loved everything about it. Unfortunately pressing work engagements meant she could not be with me today, which was a shame because she would have enjoyed watching the films that Wendy Miller of Kensington Vision had made to promote the project.

Mind you, I never like how I look or sound on film, we are just not used to seeing ourselves on a screen like that.

Everyone who hosted a show received a certificate and a DVD with a series of mini-films showing how the community, the organisations and the schools in the area had made the most of the two week project.

We all had lunch together as we relived the days we spent as a community in McDonalds on Kensington.

If you want to borrow my DVD and watch the different films, let me know, otherwise, there is a short one showcasing some of the presenters, on the KVFM Blog here

Steve Faragher of Kensington Vision and Carl Speares of Likely Alliance, with their colleagues, are promising to do what they can to bring the station back to Kensington again, personally I cannot wait.

The kids and the young people were the real stars though, on the radio, on the films and in the room today. We have so much to be proud of in Kensington.

Liverpool's Citizenship Ceremony

I took part in my first British Citizenship Ceremony today after being invited, along with all 90 city councillors, to get involved.

A month ago I sat in on a ceremony to see how they worked, and what would be expected of me, today it was my turn to formally welcome people into citizenship.

There were 24 new citizens from all over the world, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Iran, China, Yemen, Argentina and others I don't recall.

I was offered the opportunity to read the standard speech or prepare my own, and I chose the latter.

It is hard to know exactly how to pitch it, so I was interested in the comments that people left in the book afterwards.

Some found the ceremony just right, saying it was warm and welcoming. One person said the speeches went on too long, I think I spoke for about 6 or 7 minutes, the Registrar for about the same time, but in two different places. One peson said it was too informal and they would have liked more ceremony. Another wrote that there was too much emphasis on the persecution some had experienced, another that not enough was made of this nor the long wait and the patience and the saving-up that had gone into it.

I know from the staff that the majority of the new citizens are in Britain because they are professionals in the NHS and the Universities, perhaps I might make more direct reference to this next time, and shave a few minutes of my speech more generally.

I did get in the reference to Operation Black Vote, it would be great if even more people signed up for this.

We took lots of photos afterwards and many were particularly keen to get the Union Jack flag which hangs on a flag pole at the front into the picture.

Apparently someone wrote in the book last week that we ought to sing the national anthem and not just stand up for it, that would be one way to clear the room I think, in my case.

I thoroughly enjoyed the service and look forward to my next one.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Berlin in June

Lisa and I have booked to go away for a few days to Berlin in June to celebrate our 30th anniversary as friends.

We last went to Germany together in 1980 but of course there was a big wall in the way back then so we did not get as far as Berlin.

We would welcome suggestions of interesting and arty things to do and see and also good places to eat.

LibDems sinking low

The LibDems in Liverpool are sinking to new lows.

Do you remember my blogging that council leader Warren Bradley had said in the chamber that Rhys Jons from Croxteth would not have been shot dead by gun toting youths in Croxteth if the Labour Government was not spending so much money on the Olympics?

Well Frank Doran, the last remaining LibDem Councillor in Kensington and Fairfield (and not for much longer, God and voters willing) has now put out a leaflet reiterating this point and making the tragic death of this innocent boy into a political football.

I just hope Mr and Mrs Jones don't see it.

Famous for 15 minutes in the Eastern Diner

Colin and I went for a chinese meal last night in the Eastern Diner.

Just after we had settled in, a Labour Councillor arrived with her friend and sat nearby, shortly after which they were joined by a Labour MP friend of theirs.

Then ten minutes after that another Labour MP and her partner appeared and sat on a third table.

After lots of warm greetings we all got on with eating our meals in our own company.

Then a waitress came over to our table, blushing, and said she wondered if she could ask something. I was expecting her to say something about one of the politicians, was that person sitting over there such-and-such-a-body.

But instead she said to Colin, "Did you used to teach at X school?"

He confirmed that he did, and still does in fact, and she told him she was one of his pupils 15 years ago.

He remembered her because she was extremely clever and went to a top secondary school after leaving his primary school. She told us she is training to be a Doctor at a Liverpool University and Hospital. Colin was suitably proud.

She was so excited that he was there and that he remembered her, she even bought him drinks on the house (he is only drinking diet coke at the moment so she didnt have to push the boat out thankfully). She said she was going to email her old school friends to tell them that she had seen him.

Not only did it put us politicians in our place but it reminded me of a campaign that was running a few years ago about how very important a teacher could be to your life.

I was really proud of him.

Citizenship ceremony tomorrow

I have been practicing my speech this afternoon, ready for tomorrow's
ceremony where I will be welcoming some of Britain's new citizens into "full membership" of our country.

I will ask the Superintendent Registrar before the ceremony if it would be okay for me to take the opportunity to tell them about Operation Black Vote. I understand that lots of would-be councillors have signed up already, to shadow Liverpool City Councillors and it seems to me that tomorrow's ceremony, with its emphasis on rights and responsibilities would be a great opportunity to sign a few more up. I shall also be urging them to exercise their democratic right to vote, becoming magistrates and school governors and otherwise engaging in their communities.

I am nervous, it is such a special day for them, it will be like making a best man (or best woman) speech really. A day and a ceremony they will remember all their lives, I hope it is for all the right reasons and not because I tripped up the step or dropped a certificate!

Smithdown street stall

I joined members of Picton, Greenbank and Princes Park Labour Parties on a street stall on Smithdown Road today.

We were collecting signatures against the closure of the two old people's centres, at Boaler Street, Kensington and Leighton Dene in Norris Green/Fazakerley, by the LibDems.

Lots of people stopped to sign and for a chat. A few people pipped the horn and waved as they went past too. A lovely morning, we could have done another few hours if we had not made prior arrangements to go out leafletting this afternoon. It was much warmer than it has been for a long time.

Engaging the You-Tube Generation

The conference was on Thursday in London and I really enjoyed it.

I met some interesting people with a lot to teach me about community interaction online. I was particularly impressed with MCIN who are dong great things with video streams and podcasting and community reporters.

Gary Copitch also said some very positive things about Kensington Vision which gave me a real buzz.

Gemma Tumelty, President of the National Union of Students spoke about some of the downsides of social networking, citing in particular websites that encourage anorexics to stay thin and work hard at not eating, also teachers being abused, intimidated and harassed by sites that encourage students to rate their teachers.

I talked about Blogging, what it is and why it is one of the ways in which I communicate with the local community. I also showed them the blog I made in advance of the conference where I asked you to comment on why you visit me here too.

I have made a couple of coverts to blogging and hope to support them into engaging ith their own local communities in other parts of the country.

I really enjoyed the day, despite the 6.30am train journey

Bob Marley gets the Royal Assent

I read somewhere last week that Prince Charles and his wife are big Bob Marley fans.

They were in Jamaica I think, on a vist, when they went to an exhibition or a tribute of some sort. (Sorry to be so vague, I am on a friend's PC and I dont know how to launch a second instance of Explorer so I can Google for the detail.)

How disconcerting! I have been a Bob Marley fan since 1977, but I might have to have second thoughts about playing my Babylon by Bus double album now. I thought HRH was into the Three Degrees and was truly "middle of the road" in his music tastes, more Tony Blackburn than Stuart Maconie.

So either he has changed or I am in danger of metamorphosing into an old crusty!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Liverpolitalia - Buona Pasqua day

taken from a flyer they have sent me...


In conjunction with the

Sylvestrian Club

Hosts the first annual


A drop in day for members of the Liverpolitalian community throughout Merseyside


Sylvester St.
Liverpool 5


Easter Monday 24th March

1pm - 5pm

£1.50 – Liverpolitalia members
£2.50 – Non-members

Mùsica - Mangiare – Buona Compagnia

Tutti benvenuti!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Liverpool BT conference centre "hopeful of securing Labour" as conference venue

What an annoying story in the Liverpool Daily Post suggesting that Labour could now be enticed to Liverpool after the LibDems have had their Spring conference here.

I was a member of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee back in 2006 when we discussed bringing Annual conference to Liverpool in 2008. The conference organising team approached the city at that time but were told that there was no guarantee the conference centre would be ready in time.

We could have been here in Liverpool in September - and it is not Labour's fault that we are not!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Results of the Labour NorthWest Region European members ballot

The top three candidates on the ballot paper in the European elections will be

Arlene McCarthy MEP
Brian Simpson MEP and
Theresa Griffin (my friend from Liverpool who has stood twice before but not high enough up the list to get elected.)

All ought to be returned, all things being equal, so I am very pleased.

International Women's Day in Kensington

We sent a group of Labour women to the International Women's Day event in Kensington Primary school today.

Jane Kennedy MP and Louise Ellman MP, as well as me, Wendy and Claire.

There were hordes of people there, it was really well attended compared with the Holocaust event we went to there last month. There were stalls from the different countries where new residents originally hailed from - various African countries and Poland were the main ones. We were also joined by Kensington Regeneration, C7, HEAT, the Liverpool NHS Personal Health Trainers, Roy Castle's Fag Ends and various others.

Lovely food too.

We had a great time, Happy International Women's Day!

Councillor Beatrice Fraenkel defects from Liverpool Liberal Democrats to Labour Party

Here in Liverpool the Liberal-Democrats are holding their national Spring Conference.

I have blogged before about whether they would come to regret their decision, politically. (I know they wont regret coming to Liverpool in terms of the city and the facilities.)

What wont have helped their mood is the news that a long-standing LibDem councillor, with 21 years service, has this week defected to Labour.

Beatrice Fraenkel has resigned from the Liberal-Democrats calling them "damaged and dysfunctional". She is a member of the national Standards Board (or was until now, she has of course had to resign as she was there as a Liberal-Democrat)and so presumably knows what she is talking about when it comes to councillors' bad behaviour.

This is what the Liverpool Echo had to say about the defection. And this is the Liverpool Daily Post's take on it.

And this is what the woman who deselected her has had to say

Not very nice, considering she is probably a big part of what we might call the "final straw".

I dont understand the criticism about the timing, people are calling it cynical, but naturally one would want to maximise the impact of a defection. That's politics!

Anyway, I am pleased Beatrice will be joining us on the Labour benches - and that has pushed our female representation stats up a bit more too.

Mass campaign this morning

What a great morning, between 10am and 11.30am we delivered a leaflet to every home in Kensington and Fairfield, telling people about our campaign to save Boaler Street Rehabilitation Unit and Day Centre.

A tremendous effor, thanks everyone!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Boaler Street Rehabilitation Unit and Day Centre - LibDems to close

My Nana had alzheimers, it was a horrible disease. Before she went permanently into a home and was living with my Grandad, times were very difficult. She once got out of the house one night and wandered off in her nightie and had to be brought back by the police. She was very confused and once threw a cup of hot tea at my Grandad, she hit him a few times too. Once I remember she turned the cooker knobs on and let the gas fill the room. They were both elderly, it was so hard for him to care for her himself.

Boaler Street Day Centre and Rehab Unit is designed to meet the needs of people like my Grandad and Nana. Sufferers can go to the day centre and be with specialists who can assess them as required and keep them pleasantly occupied while their carers have the chance to go shopping or tidy up at home, or grab some time for themselves. When things are really bad the sufferer can stay in the unit for a little while to give the carer respite - a rest - from the strain of caring.

The unit also provides rehab for elderly people coming out of hospital, who are not quite ready to go home but who dont need to be in hospital, occupying a bed that someone else could be using.

And the LibDems have chosen to close this centre (and a sister centre, Leighton Dene in Norris Green) as part of their cost-cutting exercise to try and balance the books. 80 dedicated and professional staff, friends to the patients and the carers will lose their jobs too.

I don't need to say any more about this do I? My feelings, like yours no doubt, will be abundantly clear.

Labour in Kensington and Fairfield have launched a campaign today to save the centre. If you want to sign our petition, look out for our leaflets coming through your doors this weekend, or email me for a set of petitions you can take round for your friends to sign.

The sheer weight of public pressure stopped them from closing Venmore home in Anfield last year, now we have to show the LibDems on Liverpool City Council that Boaler Street is not up for closure either.

Newsham Park sports facility - campaign receives real boost

Following huge pressure from residents, Friends of Newsham Park and local councillors, the Education Department has now withdrawn its plans for the sports pavillion it wanted to plonk on our bowling green.

I have previously blogged about it here and here

Hopefully they will now see sense and come up with a better planned building, more in keeping with the park, and in a better location.

Well done everyone!

Lister Drive Library - no plans to reopen

It was very depressing reading - Annexe B of the LibDem budget lists a whole load of cuts they have to implement to manage the financial crisis they have plunged our city into.

And hidden away in the small print was planned savings over the next three years by not reopening the listed library, endowed by Andrew Carnegie, and serving residents of Tuebrook, Old Swan and Fairfield.

It closed in December 06 following an accident and I have asked repeated questions about when and how it will reopen. The council have said that there are no plans to close it permanently but equally there is no money to repair it.

I think three more years of closure, on top of the 15 months we have already had, spells doom.

The Echo kindly covered the story today here in this piece with the clever headline.

So, what will happen to the building now? Will it be on the Echo's Stop the Rot list in a few years time?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Objection to LibDem plans to build a pre-fab "shed" on Newsham Park

This is my objection which I have submitted today

Please register this as an official objection to the above referenced planning application.

(I had asked Cllr Berni Turner for a meeting of all interested parties in advance of the deadline for consultation, so that we could resolve the differences between us, but as no date has been forthcoming I feel obliged to object on the basis of the originally submitted plans, to be on the safe side)

My objections to the plans for a temporary pre-fab pavillion on the bowling green are as follows;

1. We (residents and representatives) very much intend one day to restore the bowling green and the siting of this structure on the green will threaten that possibility.

2. The removal of 27 metres( 80 feet) of hedge is completely unacceptable - this is a park, not a car park! We have insufficent trees, plants and hedges as it is, without scrubbing the ones we do have.

3. The design is not particularly attractive or in keeping with a conservation area

4. I believe that if these plans are granted it might jeopardise our planned Heritage Lottery Fund bid

5. The entrance from Prescot Drive to Prescot Road is already quite difficult to exit, as traffic travels past in both directions at quite some speed. I am concerned that it would cause real problems if cars were all trying to leave together from here after a game. I would request that Highways be asked to comment on this part of the plan.

6. I believe strongly that we should be encouraging full use of the park, and that would include sporting activity, and I am not opposed to a changing facility per se, but would suggest that a (more attractively designed) pavillion would be better located elsewhere in the park where there are easier road connections - perhaps near Donkey Hill. I realise this might involve a small walk to the pitches but that is quite normal in other locations and should not present a problem.

I would suggest that the Education directorate who wish to build these facilities should initiate a proper consultation with all relevant parties and stakeholders in an effort to secure a mutually satisfactory plan - I am sure we can all agree on something suitable.

Alt Valley Community Trust

I went to visit the Alt Valley Community Trust today in Croxteth at the invitation of Steve Faragher. Wendy had already been and was raving about them so I was really looking forward to seeing for myself.

I had a look round the Skills Centre in the former St Swithin Church in Croxteth.

It was featured a couple of years ago in the Guardian as it was being put together and it is every bit as good as they hoped, if not better.

There is also more about the other aspects of the Alt Valley Community Trust - like the Communiversity (life-long learning centre) which I also had a little look round and the Communifarm here and here

Steve introduced me to Phil Knibb, Director who has done a terrific job. I was very envious, we could do so much with facilities like these in Kensington, it was real food for thought. I asked Phil how much he thought it would cost to build a community resource like those, in an area like ours, to as good a specification - he said about £1.5million.

Now where can I get my hands on a sum like that?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Meeting Baby Rebecca

I finally met my niece, baby Rebecca yesterday.

She lives a long way away and it has taken a while for us both to be in the same part of England at the same time! What a lovely baby, we had cuddles and hugs and her Mum took some photographs of us together. One of which is now on my new phone, if I ever find out how to get it off there and on to here, I will post it up for you to see. Gorgeous!

It's curtains for my curtains

I have just had the house decorated, inside and out, and it is all looking fresh and clean, and ready for spring.

All I need now is some new curtains for the front room.

So on Sunday, while visiting my Mum for Mother's Day we popped into a curtain shop on Portrack Lane. I got a really nice pair, deep red, very smart - only I had not brought the bit of paper with the measurements on - so I guessed. The width was spot on but they only come half way down the windows - 5 foot long instead of 10.

Nice red curtains anyone?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

No news on the Neighbourhood Centre

I was googling for something else and found this Liverpool Daily Post story from February 2007 about the then plans for a new Neighbourhood Centre on the Kensington/Prescot Road junction, on the site of the old ice rink featured in an earlier post this month.

It seems my tenative optimism was after all misplaced.

If you are hungry for news then I can tell you that the delay went on so long that many of the proposed tenants pulled out, while others pulled out because the rents were going to be too high. So now the proposals are for shops with apartments above, and also the firefighters from the station on Low Hill hope to move to a new purpose built station on the site too, which it is hoped will also offer some community space.

But I dont think the plans have been resubmitted yet, leastways they have not come across my desk. So dont be holding your breath.

Casework, casework, casework

That is my excuse for not having left many posts lately.

This week I have processed around 200 items and three nights I have been still sending emails at 1 o'clock in the morning.

If you are thinking about throwing your hat in the ring in the local elections this year, do be sure you know what to expect!

Even moving to part-time work has not helped, in fact it has made it worse. Because now I have more time to knock on doors, to meet with people and to go to meetings, which means I take away more issues. And of course each requires a letter or an email to a problem solver. You plough through a huge pile, go to bed full of satisfaction that the "to do" pile has been considerably slimmed down, and then the next time you log on to the system, the replies have arrived and they all have to be processed too.

And then there are all the consultations - what do I think about the looked-after children review, or the KPIs for the coming year, or the plans for housing developments, or nursery closures or budget proposals. And I cannot make a decision without consulting relevant people myself, so that is another round of people to talk to and inevitably they raise other things at the same time.

And every meeting generates some good ideas or new challenges that demand further meetings.

Not that I am complaining mind you, I absolutely LOVE it. Being a Councillor is utterly wonderful and very rewarding and I would not have it any other way.

But anyone who thinks it is money for old rope wants their bumps felt, frankly.

(Now you know why the blog entries have fallen off a bit of late. By 1am last night when I sent the last of 61 emails I was far too tired to write another thing).

Thanks for coming back to see if I had resurfaced!

Another pointless Neighbourhood Committee

I dont know why it is that West Derby and North Liverpool both get really big groups of residents to their Neighbourhood Committees and we get an average of 3.

Yes as many as that.

I hope the explanation is that there are already lots and lots of other ways to be involved in our area - our Your Community Matters event this week saw about 30 or 40 residents, our combined Kensington Regeneration Neighbourhood Assemblies have about 50 residents, there are umpteen TRAs on the go - we have Putting Our Neighbourhood First at Venture Housing, we even had a Police Forum this week.

So are they all well catered for and dont feel the need to add more dates to their diaries?

Or is it just not very exciting? In any case as far as I can see the council never advertises so probably nobody even knows it is happening.

I think perhaps I might have to visit a few meetings in other parts of the city after the election and try and find out what their secret is.