Friday, November 28, 2008

And the second Polish event

This email came from Andy who Liam and I met last year and who has set up a website for Poles in Liverpool and established a magazine.

He may send me a Polish translation in which case I will add it to the foot of this post later.

"Next Sunday we are organising a Christmas party for Polish families in Liverpool. This will be our first such Polish event in Liverpool and will have a traditional Christmas atmosphere. There will be a Santa Clause, children's games, competitions, a buffet and other attractions.

We will be glad if you could come and spend with us this evening. We believe it will be for all of us new experience and good time.

Event will take place in Kensington Police Club, Prescot Rd, L7 0JD at 5pm on 7th December. Looking forward to see you."

Dnia 7 grudnia 2008 r. redakcja portalu organizuje specjalne świąteczne spotkanie, dla dzieci i rodziców. Spotkanie jakiego jeszcze nie było!
Świątecznej atmosfery kupić nie można, ale pewne jest ze sami ją budujemy. Organizatorzy zadbają o nią w każdym calu tego roku.
Smaku imprezie z pewnością doda bufet pełen słodkości i owoców. Stół świętami pachnący z aromatem pomarańczy, smakowitym makowcem i innymi wigilijnymi rarytasami na słodko. Zdobiony owocowym przepychem.

Pachnąca świerkiem i ozdobiona lampkami sala zadba o klimat spotkania, a sam Św. Mikołaj prócz prezentów przyniesie nam dużo śmiechu, zabawy i Świąteczną paczkę dla każdego dziecka. Sponsorzy zadbają o to, by świąteczne konkursy i ich nagrody przypomniały wszystkim zabranym, tę szczególną radość z otrzymanych prezentów.

Więcej informacji na
Andzej and Agnieszka

An invite to a couple of Polish events in Fairfield and Kensington

Email from the lovely Gosia. I have a PDF I can email to you but I cannot upload PDFs on to my website sadly. Please note what sounds like a FABULOUS event, which I cannot go to as it is our Labour Group Christmas Party, but otherwise I would have been there like a shot.

Dear Friends

This is the first one

We would like to invite you for the next Merseyside Polonia event that will take place on 5th December 2008. It will start at 6.30 pm (end by 9 pm) at the Academy of St. Francis of Assisi (by Newsham Park), Gardner’s Drive, Liverpool L6 7UR. The events are free, open to everybody and will be translated in English and Polish.

We are very happy with the success of previous events. We received many positive comments and the group that is helping in organizing the meetings grew larger. Please have a look at our website to see photographs from the previous events:

Next Merseyside Polonia event will be with Christmas theme and along set points of the evening program of introducing local services, there will be an opportunity to try Polish Christmas Eve dishes, find out more about Christmas traditions and sing Christmas Carols.

The aim of Merseyside Polonia is to develop positive relations between the Polish community and local residents through presentations about Poland and its culture, information related to life in England and the creation of new initiatives.

See you at the next event

Best wishes

Gosia McKane

Drodzy Przyjaciele

Chcielibyśmy Was zaprosić na kolejne ze spotkań Merseyside Polonia, które odbędzie się 5 grudnia 2008. Początek 18.30 (zakonczenie okolo 21.00) w Academy of St. Francis of Assisi (przy Newsham Park), Gardner’s Drive, Liverpool, L6 7UR. Wstęp wolny dla każdego oraz zapewnione tłumaczenie na polski i angielski.

Jesteśmy bardzo zadowoleni z tego, jak przebiegły ostatnie spotkania. Otrzymaliśmy wiele pozytywnych komentarzy oraz powiększyła się grupa osób chętnych do wlączenia się w organizowanie spotkań. Zapraszamy na naszą stronę internetową, gdzie można obejrzeć zdjęcia z poprzednich spotkań:

Kolejne ze spotkan Merseyside Polonia będzie zainspirowane Świętami Bożego Narodzenia i oprócz stałych już punktów programu związanych z przedstawieniem lokalnych organizacji, okazją do spróbowania wigilijnych przysmaków, prezentacji tradycji zwiazanych ze świętami oraz wspólnym śpiewaniem kolęd.

Celem projektu Merseyside Polonia jest zbudowanie pozytywnych relacji pomiędzy polską społecznością i lokalnymi mieszkańcami poprzez prezentacje o Polsce i jej kulturze, informacje związane z życiem w Anglii oraz tworzenie wspólnie nowych inicjatyw.

Do zobaczenia na spotkaniu

Serdeczne pozdrownienia

Gosia McKane

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Labour North West Regional Conference - Southport

Last weekend I was in Southport with a fragile Wendy for the Labour North West Regional Conference.

I wont go on about it, suffice it to say that we had a good time, some good debates and workshops and it was all very useful - and great to see old friends.

Some things I will say that were of interest

Alastair Campbell spoke at the Friday night fundraising dinner which was enjoyable and one of my friends will be benefitting from my encounter with him, any day now. No names no pack drill, but she will know what I mean when the postman comes with a parcel for her.

I took the opportunity to talk to John Healey, Minister for Local Government, during a work-shop for councillors, about the lack of democratic input in Licensing matters, and he asked me to mail him the stuff over, which I have done and which he has now promised to look into. Readers will recall my indignation at learning that local councillors are not deemed "interested parties" and therefore are not allowed to comment on licensing applications for off-licences, pubs etc. I will let you know how that progresses.

I asked a question during Q&A of my old friend Ivan Lewis, now PUSS at Department of International Development about changing the rules to ensure that failed Asylum Seekers from the Congo are not sent back - he has also promised to get back to me about that.

John Prescott held a rally as part of his "Go Fourth" tour, to urge us on to campaign for a fourth term in Government. It was great and we all went off enthused.

But the highlight of the weekend was when I bumped into Marc Almond coming out of a hotel as I was going in. I recognised him immediately, he has not aged or changed at all. I am rather embarassed to say that I caught his sleeve, gushed about how marvellous I think he is and reminded that him that he had given me his autograph at the Kirk in 1982 (Kirklevington Country Club) and we briefly reminisced about what a really great club that was, sadly it has since been demolished and replaced with a small housing estate. I was absolutely "over the giggy" about seeing him.

Later that night I saw Stevie G in the hotel bar, but was unmoved in comparison.

A great weekend where we were joined by 100 Young Labour members having their own regional conference, but dipping into ours from time to time.

The future feels much brighter than it did six months ago.

Carbon Monoxide Awareness week - Liverpool is centre of the national stage

Lynn Griffiths, the President of CO Awareness asked me earlier this year if I thought we could pull off a special day in Liverpool as part of this year's National CO Awareness Week.

The first four days are traditionally held in the Parliaments/Assemblies of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but the fifth day, the Friday is in a town or city within the Union. Last year we were in Dewsbury for instance, where a lot of work has gone into CO awareness following the tragic death of 10 year old Dominic Rodgers in Huddersfield.

Lynn is from Runcorn and has done some great work with Halton Housing Trust and felt that between us, we could do something special in Liverpool. With the support of Liverpool City Council and particularly Fred Pye who works in the Healthy Homes Initiative Team and with the support of Merseyside Fire Service, Liverpool Student Homes and various other organisations - the Private Landlord Accreditation Scheme and some great help from the local PCT, we put on a really good event.

I booked the Town Hall and asked city council leader, Councillor Warren Bradley to speak about LCC intitiatives by people like Fred and his colleagues, to show the commitment of the city to CO Awareness. Lynn had persuaded the Health and Safety Minister, Lord McKenzie of Luton to come up for the event and had lots of other key speakers lined up too.

I was responsible for issuing the invites and was petrified that nobody would come but on the day we had about 80-100 people, from RSLs, the fire service, the ambulance service, people who fit gas appliances, people who design and sell detectors, people who provide student accomodation, private landlords, hoteliers, all sorts of people. And several came over to me afterwards to tell me about action points they were taking away.

I was thrilled to hear that Merseyside Fire Service have offered CO Awareness an office in their Aintree premises and I look forward to a really productive relationship with them.

I was also delighted that Rapid, on Renshaw Street, had sold loads of detectors in a special campaign, during the week, to reduce the price, while advertising in the Echo and on the radio, about the awareness campaign. Thanks a million to everyone at Rapid!

All in all it was a really big success and we raised an awful lot of awareness, which is what it is all about after all. I had invited Michael's parents but they wrote and said they are getting too old now to travel but wished us all well with the day. 50 people die every single year, of a completely unneccessary and totally preventable cause, and thousands more live but with serious health implications. We have to get that awareness much further up people's agenda and this, for Liverpool, was a real step in the right direction

Very moving citizenship ceremony

My latest citizenship ceremony was really moving and there were quite a lot of tears. I always enjoy them and there is always a good feeling, but this one was for some reason particularly special. There were 17 new citizens, only one from Africa this time, whereas often there is a good number. They were from Asian countries in the main, rather than African ones, and a couple of Eastern Europeans too.

I met a lovely middle-aged lady from the Ukraine who I shared a few tears with and a very nice man from perhaps Poland or Bulgaria who was marrying his British girlfriend this weekend. (I do read the certificates which detail where people were born but I cannot recall in this case where he was from). We shared a few tears too. There were a few Indians, with lots of gorgeous children and a couple from Kensington too who came over after the ceremony to chat to me.

I don't know why it is that some weeks it is very nice but not overly emotive and other weeks we all feel particularly uplifted and moved?

Colin came me with me on this occasion as he had not sat in on a ceremony before and I think he really enjoyed it.

We go through the service, the registrar officiates, people pledge or affirm allegiance, I make a speech as the "dignatory" of the day, then hand out each certificate to each new citizen, individually, and now we are also giving them a passport application form, a form to go on the electoral register and a silver medal/coin to commemorate the conferring of their British Citizenship in Liverpool. They are really good, I would be made up to get one of those, I am very impressed with them.

Then we stand for the national anthem. Then when the service is concluded I bring the flag, on a stand, out into the middle of the room and we do lots of photos, me with the new citizens and the flag, and then me with them and their families and then them without me (which I expect they are quite glad of by that point), and them with the registrar staff. This time the queue went on for a good while and one lady asked me if my cheeks were aching with all the smiling.

Actually I was too busy holding back tears.

I have done about 8 ceremonies this year and have enjoyed every single one but this one was my favourite so far. I am very happy for anyone to come with me, to see what it is all about, get in touch if you would like to join me, Lisa and little green Isaac are coming to my next one in a fortnight.

Medium - truth or fiction?

My work colleagues booked a medium to come to our office and I was one of the 6 people who consulted her late one afternoon, a week or two ago (it was not one of my days to work there I should say, this was done in my own time, in case you were wondering).

When Michael died I consulted lots of mediums, it is a fairly standard thing for the recently bereaved, and by and large they were all pretty poor, generalising and getting a lot of stuff wrong and asking too many leading questions. But I thought I would give it another go, just out of interest.

Was this one any better? It is hard to tell really. She threw out a lot of names, about half of which I could recognise and half of which meant nothing to me. But some of the things she said were accurate. I wish there was a way of knowing how much of it is guess work. And how much of it is down to my wanting to "own" things she said, or twist them to suit my fact. I think we would all like to think that there is a medium out there who is genuine and effective, but I am still not convinced.

Anyway, I will give you a bit of a taste of some of what she said. She asked me first if I had a partner, and I said no. So she asked me if my partner had died. I conceded that he had and she said a shadow had walked in with me. That was a bit spooky, I was not sure how I felt about shadows following me about. And I was quite impressed that she would know that he had died, I cannot think there are lots of women my age who would have replied in the affirmative to that question.

She then asked me who "Chris" was and I said I didnt know anyone of that name. Although a few minutes later when she had moved on to something else, I suddenly realised that Chris was the name of my beloved Nana, but of course I never called her by her name so it had completely passed me by. We didnt talk about her any further. But that was quite impressive for a first stab actually, in hindsight.

She asked me who was the diabetic (Colin came straight to mind) and who has very sore eyes (Colin again). She asked me three times about someone who had an amputated leg but I told her that no-one in my circle of family or friends had ever had an amputation, I said I would have noticed. I dont know what that was all about and she kept coming back to it.

She asked me who died of a brain tumour (Roger's brother) but did not name him, coincidence?

She asked me who died of liver disease - my ex-husband - and got into quite a lot of detail about him. His name, that he played cards a lot, that he drank a lot (pretty obvious of course for someone with a liver disease), that he had two children, whose names she mentioned during the rest of the session but not immediately at that point, and didnt identify them as his children. Coincidence?

She told me I helped people for a living - I think this is a reasonable explanation of a councillor, which she did not know about and I never told her, but not something she would presumably expect to say to someone who she understood to work in a firm of accountants.

She then named in sequence five of my colleagues in the office, although did not say they worked with me, she just threw their names out. Coincidence? Could she have read the signing in sheet?

She named two of my cousins (and I dont have a huge amount), both on the one side, Anita and Donna. Coincidence?

She asked me who had a bad neck - no-one that I could think of, although Wendy has a very bad neck now, having had a fall while we were out leafletting and really hurt herself, two days later. We have debated whether this was ill-wished upon her. Coincidence?

And then she went into a mass of detail about a man who I am going to have a long lasting relationship with. In fact she told me more or less everything about him bar his address. And apparently I should be well esconced with him within three years. So it will be fairly clear in three years whether there is anything in this or not.

His name is Francis, first name or surname, he is self-employed, possibly to do with cars, he has a blue car, (she asked me if my car was blue too - it is - and said if I didnt mind her saying, his car was rather better than mine!) and that he likes war films. I was not very impressed by this but she said he wouldnt make me watch them. She said he has relatives named Maureen and Ethel and that he was associated with Ireland, which was great, I must say. And his dad might well have been a bin-man. All I can say is, if someone comes forward who fits those credentials I will definitely be a convert!

She told me I needed to go out more, socially, and then asked me who Rachel was. I said she was my mate who had coincidetally invited me out that weekend so she said I had better go in that case!

She also asked me whether my parents came from South Africa. I said no, certainly not, they were from the West Midlands, but she was quite insistent that this was relevant. It was only afterwards that I recalled that my Gran was actually born in South Africa, in Winberg.

Perhaps mediums should ask for better sitters, I am afraid I was rather rubbish really.

And I am to accept with alacrity any offers of a long weekend in Ireland (as if I would refuse!!)

She did not mention Michael at all, not his name or anything associated with him. And she did not say my Grandad was now willing to accept the concept of an after-life, something we occasionally discussed where I said he would know that there was a heaven, which he didn't believe in, once he was there.

And she did not give me any tips about any of my genealogical dead-ends either. I would have loved to have known what happened to Great Great Gran Eliza Lister's first husband for instance.

So as things currently stand it was interesting, but not conclusive.

Traffic and pedestrian management - Prescot Road/Laurel Road junction

Residents raise the issue of the Prescot Road/Laurel Road junction at practically every meeting of FARA and every meeting of Latham Court

I had a site visit in June with an officer from LCC but it did not come to anything and so I organised a second visit this month with a different set of officers to find out whether we can do something on this dangerous junction.

There are two issues, one, the perennial one, is where the money would come from. The other is about whether such a scheme is possible, given that there is a social club with its entrance in the middle of what would be a controlled junction. And it is in a conservation area so there are issues about how we manage that. But we had a productive site visit. The conservation officer thought we could manage a scheme that would satisfy her, the highways officers thought they might have a solution, so I have asked them to go away and clarify all that.

If we can get a scheme that will allow cars to come into and out of Laurel Road safely and that will allow pedestrians to cross without fear of being knocked over, then we can start to work on where the money would come from.

I will keep you posted about this

Stop the Rot

I sat in the Stop the Rot meeting for Councillor Joe Anderson this month, very interesting stuff! This campaign, fronted by the Liverpool Echo and chaired by the Bishop is designed to save certain important historic buildings in the city centre mainly, from being lost, falling down etc. We had a presentation on some of the success stories since the campaign began and also talked about some of the buildings still to be saved. They are doing some good work, it is important that there is a focus on preserving our heritage and I think we gain from having all the interested parties round the table together.

I took the opportunity to mention Deane Road Jewish Cemetery and am pleased to report that the conservation officers and buildings at risk officers from LCC are keen to meet us to discuss how they can support our HLF bid. Watch this space.

Your community matters - Kensington and Fairfield

I think we had about 80 people at our Your Community Matters event at St Francis of Assisi Academy this month. Everyone really enjoyed it - from the bowl of scouse or vegetable curry through to the free draw for a ceramic superlambanana! We had a good mixed community representation, young and old, black and white, men and women, and local resident Natalie from the OBV scheme even brought her baby in his pushchair. The feedback from youth services, the police and neighbourhood management services was good, lots of progress on issues raised last time (Larry Murphy from LCC came in to give his feedback despite being on holiday, so thanks to him). I'm thinking I missed one, who was it? Residents came up with some good issues for the next quarter. I find them really useful events and we always get new faces there.

I did the feedback for the items that don't quite fit into the main themes, having taken forward the action points myself. I have not yet been able to put together the leaflet advertising community space but I live in hope - I am just waiting for the organisations to feed me their details so that I can do it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

National Justice Awards - Kenny Police are honoured

Kensington Community Police team were nominated for another award as part of the National Justice Awards

Sergeant Simon Joyce told me that they had been Highly Commended for their ‘Outstanding contribution to engaging local communities’

Well done to all the team, we are all very proud of you!

In defence of Jim Murphy - just in case!

Reporters at the BBC deserve a very serious telling off for their coverage of Question Time

Admittedly I did not watch it, but the article makes is clear that a member of the audience asked the panel about John Sergeant's resignation from Strictly Come Dancing.

Jim Murphy, Scottish Minister, apparently said that in his view it was the judges that should have gone, not John. He said he and his family watched the show and etc. Anyway you can see what he said for yourself by reading the link.

What are the odds that Jim will now join a list that already contains Andy Burnham as someone who should not be commenting on celebrity TV. What is a Question Time guest supposed to do? Refuse to answer questions that might be deemed insufficiently serious and too light-weight in case of criticism?

And how dare the BBC take this line about a BBC programme!!

Of course I might be overreacting and there might be no such further reporting, but it is currently a headline on the politics section of the BBC and until you read the story you think that someone has gone out of their way to issue a statement on this.


PS I never watch strictly because I dont like formal dancing but I have always liked John Sergeant since I read his autobiography a few years back, which I can lend to any friends who would like it

Venture Housing defends Audit Commission rating

As readers of the blog will know, I joined the board of Venture Housing Association in September after becoming a co-optee in June.

June also saw the Audit Commission come in to carry out their inspection and their findings have been reported today.

The Daily Post and Liverpool Echo (I cannot find a link to this on their site) have both covered the story.

As has Housing News - I cannot link to that as it entails letting you see the password and email address we used to register for the newsletter, but I have recreated it below.

My own thoughts are that, like the Chief Executive I am very disappointed in the star rating and I have told him and the board that I would not have taken the step of joining if I did not believe in them and the service they offer. After all, I am not remunerated for my time or expenses and I am not a council nominee, I am a member in my own right. I think they deserved a much better rating.

As far as I am concerned I am proud to be a member of VHA, proud of the 90% satisfaction ratings of the tenants, proud of the current campaign to recruit new members, proud of the new chair (our last chair sadly died in the summer), proud of our training last week on Equality and Diversity Impact Assessments, proud of the advances we have made in obtainings gas certificates for our properties, despite the difficulties of some tenants in allowing access to gas engineers, and proud most of all of the overwhelming desire to improve and to put into action the recommendations of the Audit Commission.

It is clear that the partnership working is making a real difference to the community and obvious the staff are dedicated to that community and show that by their own volunteering for clean-up days for instance.

Here's looking to the next inspection!


Satisfied tenants, customer focused staff and a firm handle on anti-social behaviour are among the strengths highlighted by Audit Commission inspectors following a visit to Liverpool-based Venture Housing Association.

The Audit Commission also commented positively on Venture’s support for vulnerable tenants, including victims of anti-social behaviour.

Despite this positive practice, the Audit Commission has today awarded Venture a zero star, ‘poor’ rating. Inspectors did, however, give the association a vote of confidence by rating its prospects for improvement as ‘promising’.

A series of recommendations has been made to enable the organisation to build on its strengths and improve its weaker areas. These recommendations have been accepted unreservedly and work to make changes for the better is already underway.

Chief executive John Tolen said the rating was extremely disappointing.

He added: “We do not feel the judgement reflects what we have achieved in, what are, some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.

“Having said that, our prime focus now is to improve the aspects of our service which did attract criticism to ensure our tenants receive the very best provision across the board.”

Recent survey results show tenants are highly satisfied, in a number of cases above the national average, with the service Venture provides. In 2007/08, 90% of those who completed a questionnaire following repair work rated the service as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

And 88% of tenants said they were satisfied with customer service, compared to 79% nationally. In their report, inspectors’ state: “Customers receive a personal service due to the small nature of the organisation.”

Venture HA is on track to meet Government’s Decent Homes Standard by the 2010 deadline while ‘diversity champions’ have been appointed at management and board level to widen the established focus from race equality to also include age, gender, religious beliefs, disability and sexuality.

Yvonne Davies, Head of Housing, Northern region, for the Audit Commission, said: “The services provided by Venture Housing Association are below the acceptable standard that we would expect to see. Services have not been developed in line with changing expectations, with a slow pace of improvement in a number of key service areas.

“However there is now a drive within the organisation to improve services, with a positive change seen in some areas such as income management and estate management in recent months.”

Mr Tolen added: “It’s very important at Venture to provide tenants with a high standard of service. The feedback we have from our customers and community partners tells us satisfaction levels are already high but it is our absolute aim to now raise that bar higher still.”

Leaked BNP list

I note a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about the need to protect BNP members from hatred and retaliation from members of the public. I was reminded about some far-right web sites I have seen in the past, I forget the names, wouldnt link to them anyway, when they published photos, names and addresses of ANL members they had researched, seen at rallies and demos etc and people who more generally opposed the BNP, websites which actually did (and probably still do) incite people to go round to their house and do them some damage. I have a vague recollection that a certain ex Labour and LibDem councillor was on such a site, and also a young guy I used to know back in Huddersfield who was in Socialist Labour. I am deliberately not mentioning their names.

Incidentally, BNP candidates have their names and addresses printed on ballot papers in every election where they stand. They dont worry about getting their houses or selves attacked, why is this being raised now?

I dont advocate any physical action against any of them, just for the record but I find the strength of reaction about ensuring there are no witch-hunts interesting in contrast to what I have said above.

I have checked the list to see if it includes anyone I know. There were no real surprises, although one is a constituent of mine that I have always known held strong racist views and who I sometimes have to sit by in meetings. Also I saw the address of someone in the next street to me, but I dont know them.

I wonder what would happen if all political parties published their membership lists? That would make for very interesting reading!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lord Mayor's Children's Christmas Party

I have a few days left to find two children who would like to attend the Lord Mayor's Christmas Party on 16th December in the Town Hall.

I am particularly grateful to Councillor Eddie Clein for asking the town hall staff to give his allocation to me so that an extra Kensington and Fairfield child can enjoy a lovely time with city children and our Lord Mayor. I think that was a really selfless gesture and I have told him that our kids will really appreciate it.

I have a few families in mind to approach, but if you have any thoughts yourself about children between the ages of 6 and 11 who might enjoy this great party, then please get in touch, they will need to live in Kensington or Fairfield and can each bring an adult with them.

Email me or phone me, I have Monday to confirm names.

Royal Mail getting ready for Christmas

I have had a letter from Royal Mail today, as an anonymous householder, telling me about their Christmas postage plans.

I have to say that I am quite impressed

There are pledges to try harder to deliver packages to me during the festive period, including Sundays and evening deliveries - all those gifts from far away!

The collection offices will be open for longer and they wont charge for Local Collect during December.

Pretty good customer service I would say, from an organisation that sometimes falls short, given that they often push "sorry you were out" cards through without actually waiting to see if I am in.

But I should say that I do hope the RM staff will get a financial benefit from these longer hours, otherwise it will be Ebenezer Scrooge writ large.

Kensington dressmaker dresses Leona Lewis for the MTV awards

I have just read in tonight's Liverpool Echo that Kensington dress-maker, Mary Spendlove, adjusted the star's outfit so that she could look gorgeous in pink for the MTV awards

How proud are we!

Ku Design by Spendlove on Kensington have really done us all proud, who says that nothing good comes out of our neighbourhood?


Remembrance Sunday

There is something very special about being a councillor on Remembrance Sunday. We are invited to take part in a civic ceremony to remember the glorious fallen, in company with veterans of all conflicts and with members of the public and with school children from every senior school in the city.

Sadly it rained a lot towards the end of the ceremony and our Lord Mayor, Councillor Steve Rotheram and his wife were dripping wet before they were allowed to come back into St George's Hall at the end of the service - but at least they had umbrellas, we had only our skin to keep us dry!

It was as always a moving ceremony although frankly I could have done without being asked to maintain a three minute silence in order to listen to some cheesy pop song named Heroes which was performed by some previous X factor group. Good for them for giving the proceeds to the Royal Legion, but really, it did not merit the intense listening we were obliged to give it, to the extent that I felt uncomfortable about eating my lunch while it was playing. It was hardly the Flowers of the Forest.

Later in the day Colin and I decided to visit Abercrombie Square to see the new statue, a tribute to the city's VC recipients, including, unbelievably, Noel Chavasse who won not 1 but 2 VCs, truly awesome, and was the son of the then Bishop of Liverpool. I am attaching the photos but sadly I do not know how to turn them so that they are the right way up. I took them with my camera phone. Maybe it is something to do with the settings that wont let me save flipped photos? Answers would be welcome, solutions even more so. They are not great pics, it was raining and getting dark by the time we found the sculpture.

One of Colin's Great Uncles, or maybe Great Great Uncles, was a VC winner, David Samuel Anthony Lord and we took some time to think about him during the day, as well as our grandfathers, greatgrandfathers and other family members whose contributions to the wars have been so precious.

I look forward to ceremonies that celebrate those that served from home, including the women but at least I know that many of us hold them in our minds during the service anyway.

Only the weather depressed what was otherwise a really important day of reflection and I was once again very proud to be taking part in the remembrance.

Labour Party North West Regional Board (and Wendy's birthday)

Wendy and I are both on the Labour Party Regional North West Board, by happy chance. She is a UNISON delegate and I represent Labour Party constituencies on Merseyside.

We had a regional board on 8th November where we discussed plans for our Regional LP conference in Southport this weekend and then we came back to Liverpool and had a lovely lunch in Vinci's to celebrate Wendy's birthday.

Apparently Alastair Campbell is going to be the speaker at the gala dinner on the Friday night, I cannot wait for that!!

Merseyside Polonia - 2nd event

I was delighted to attend the second meeting of Merseyside Polonia, designed to bring together Polish people and their neighbours across the county. It was held in St Francis of Assisi Academy, as will all the meetings in the series of 8, and I would guestimate that perhaps 80 people were there.

We had short presentations from various public organisations, the fire service, Venture Housing, C7 wardens and a local solicitor with a Polish translator. We then had a presentation from a Polish man and his wife about their home town and we all laughed when he told us how he had been asked whether there were Polar Bears in Poland. It was a great looking town, sadly I cannot recall its name, but it began with an "O" and I wanted to visit there by the end of the promotion.

We had some lovely Polish food, essentially a bread and cold meat buffet with some fruit salad, before watching some scenes from George McKane's favourite Polish Films.

I am really looking forward to the next 6 meetings!

Gosia McKane is achieving great things with this project and we are absolutely delighted to financially support her and her friends to even greater success.

Phythian Pub at planning

Good news and bad news really, were the order of the day at the Planning Committee on 4th November.

I went to speak against plans to do up the Phythian Pub on Farnworth Street - not in their entirety, I am all in favour of bringing empty pubs back into use and also happy with plans for residential use on the upper floors, what was the real sticking point was the plan for a shop on part of the ground floor.

I should say I dont make a habit of going to Planning Committees, indeed this may have been only my second visit since being elected, so that shows just how important this decision was for our residents. More than 80 of them had written individual letters against plans for a shop in the old pub, because they were deeply anxious about attracting anti-social behaviour, groups hanging about outside, something that has become a huge problem in our area.

I also explained about our concurrent bid for alleygates to surround the pub, something which has support from all residents and from the owner himself. I said that I thought we needed to consider the impact of these gates on the plans, limiting for example the access to parking.

A Labour councillor, John McIntosh, proposed that they should have a site visit befor deciding on the merits of the application but it seemed to me that it then became politicised as the other Labour members of the committee supported him and the LibDems voted to accept the application without such a factfinding visit.

It came down in the end to the casting vote of the Chair of Planning - a LibDem and he voted to okay the plans without bothering to find out whether alleygates would affect access or egress to the site.

I was deeply disappointed, as are all of the residents, and we feel we have been hard done to, not in the decision to accept the plans necessarily, but in the decision not to bottom out the detail. I cannot help but feel it was shabby not to insist on being in posession of all the facts before taking a decision

The good news is that the Planning Officers have listened to some degree and the shop would have to close by 8pm at the latest, so not a victory but a concession in the right direction at least.

Liverpool Mural Project launch at the Picket

The official launch at the Picket was fantastic.

The speakers were great, Peter Morrison explaining how the project was developed through his passion, the author Michael Kelly explaining the significance of those who appear in the mural - Kitty Wilkinson, James Larkin and Agnes Jones, and Professor Bill Rolston, University of Ulster, talking about the history of murals.

It was so inspiring, Liam and I were delighted to give up our lunch hour to join the other guests all celebrating a fantastic artistic achievement.

What we really want now is to host the next Liverpool mural in Kensington and Fairfield - and we particularly look forward to welcome artists Danny and Mark to our neighbourhood.

Training to help me with visits to LCC children's homes

I have been doing some training to help me to be effective when I visit some of the 5 children's homes in our city.

All councillors are what is known as "corporate parents" for the children in care in the authority, whether they are in children's homes or more usually in foster care.

And there is a legal responsibility on us councillors to visit the children's homes monthly to ensure that our children are being properly cared for, particularly considering the five areas within the Labour Government Policy of Every Child Matters.

Wendy, Claire and I and a LibDem, Councillor Graham Hulme, spent a day learning more about the strategy to work constructively with children in difficulty, children expressing anger and frustration etc. It was very useful, particularly because we shared the training with foster carers so we heard some of their issues and problems first hand.

Today those of us councillors who have agreed to undertake CRB checks with a view to becoming formal visitors of our children's homes met and heard from the different children's homes managers about the nature of their homes and what we should be looking for on our visits.

I find it all very interesting. For instance, if you did not know about children's homes you might imagine that they house 100 kids each, whereas in reality most are more like family homes with half a dozen children living there with approximately the same number of staff.

We have five such homes and two of those specialise in respite care for children with profound learning difficulties or profound physical disabilities that mean their families need a rest periodically while they are looking after them.

The other homes tend to include children who have had difficult placements elsewhere in the system, for whom for instance foster care has not been the answer.

I am going to be visiting a home in Fairfield, which I wont mention because the children deserve their privacy and I am pleased that I now have a clear idea about what I should be looking for when I get there, to ensure that they are having the best possible care and the best possible outcomes.

It is an extremely important responsibility, more so than any other that a councillor undertakes and I am glad that I have an expert in Wendy to guide me.

Stop the Rot and Deane Road Jewish Cemetery

I sat in for Labour Leader Councillor Joe Anderson at a Stop the Rot meeting a few weeks back. It is a working group set up by the Liverpool Echo with the support of the Bishop of Liverpool, Rt Rev James Jones, to tackle certain important buildings in the city that are being allowed to fall down.

We looked at current and ongoing plans for buildings in Seel Street, for the Florrie, for the pub with the Banksy artwork, all sorts and it was all very useful, and some of the battles are immense. All power to everyone on the group, from LCC and numerous other partners.

I took the opportunity to mention our Deane Road Jewish Cemetery project and got the agreement from the Buildings at Risk person that he and a colleague will meet with us and advise us and hopefully support us in our bid for Heritage Lottery Funds to restore this jewel in our neighbourhood.

I will keep you updated with this, next job is to find a date that we can all manage to show off the cemtery and explain our plans.

Black History Month Black Achievers Awards

I did say in an earlier entry that I wanted to say something about the black achievers' awards at the fabulous night out at the Crowne Plaza last month.

I had a wonderful time, sitting with LCC staff, Andrew Nembhard and his wife Liz who works for one of our RSLs, and some of his staff from the Equality and Diversity Unit at LCC, Peter Cosgrove another lead officer from LCC and various engaging friends and relatives.

We even managed to dance, now what more could you ask for from a night out than good company, good food and a dance?

I was most particularly thrilled though when my friend Siddi Majuba won an award for Sports in the Community for his work with Liver World.

I am showing a photo of me and Siddi with Judith Greensmith, the High Sheriff of Merseyside, which we had taken at the occasion of the 90th birthday celebrations for Nelson Mandela in the Town Hall.

I am so proud of him and all the great work he does, he is truly (albeit the self-proclaimed) the new Duke of Kensington

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kensington and Fairfield Respect Week October 2008

We had our second Respect week of the year in October 2008, and it was another great success. Please have a look at how hard everyone worked to put Kensington and Fairfield at the heart of everything they did that week.

Safer & Stronger Communities

Our fantastic Police Inspector, Dave Charnock has told us that 73 people were arrested or issued with Fixed Penalty Notices for crimes. 227 people were stopped and searched during the week, police were on the lookout for knives and weapons. Only 2 people were found carrying weapons. High visibility controls were in place and the knife arch (metal detector) was in use.

32 litres of alcohol were confiscated from youths in the park. Licensed premises and outlets where knives were sold received police visits and test purchasing with an underage volunteer was carried out. 25 checks were carried out throughout the week and 2 premises received warnings for failing to comply with the conditions of their licence. 8 people were arrested for outstanding court warrants within the area.

Drugs & Theft Act Warrants - A property in Adelaide Road, L7 was raided under the Misuse of Drugs Act. A cannabis cultivation farm was discovered, plants were removed and the farm was dismantled. Forensic enquiries continue to identify the offender.

A Theft Act warrant was executed in Holland Street, L7 and the suspect was caught throwing drugs out of his window and was arrested for possession of cannabis with intent to supply.

Misuse of Drugs Warrant was executed in Albert Edward Road, L7. The suspect attempted to flush away drugs however, the police recovered £200 worth of crack cocaine and heroin and £800 cash was seized as proceeds of crime.

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service - A chip pan demonstration was carried out in the Lidl car park. Community Fire Safety & Fire Support Net generated 50-60 referrals from the events. 300 properties were called at and 80 home fire safety checks carried out and 100 alarms were fitted.

Advocates attended St Francis of Assisi School and conducted firework misuse presentations and attended the Market Place.

600 wheelie bin leaflets were distributed through Streets Ahead regarding wheelie bin fires. A tile warehouse was advised to remove wooden pallets from the pavement in the lead up to bonfire night.

Roads Policing Operations - Operations ran 3 days from early morning to late evening. Police worked alongside representatives from VOSA, HMRI, LCC Taxi Licensing and Enterprise Liverpool. Roadside checks were carried out and 282 vehicles were stopped at check points by all agencies, results included, 6 vehicles being seized for insurance and driving offences, 39 none endorsable fixed penalty notices were issued and 3 child seat belt warnings were issued.

Taxi Licensing involved 98 cabs being stopped. 6 defect notices were issued and 5 suspension notices were issued.

VOSA – 28 vehicles were checked and 3 prohibition notices issued (defective tyres).

Customs & Excise – 54 vehicles stopped and checked for red diesel, 4 were found to have red diesel.

Liverpool City Council Parking Services - 38 fixed penalties issued for parking offences and 8 verbal warnings given.

Liverpool Anti-Social Behaviour Unit/C7 Housing Association – LASBU/C7 conducted an ASB presentation/lesson at the Phoenix School. A bird feeding session was held with Sure Start.

Operation Cube-It – 18 offending vehicles were dealt with. 2 vehicles were seized for having no tax.

Merseyside Police Off Road Bike Units – 8 reports of vehicle nuisance reported whilst on patrol.

Tackling Crime & Anti-Social Behaviour on Public Transport (Operation Snowball) – Merseyside Police worked closely with Revenue Protection Officers, Arriva Bus Company and Mersey Travel to tackle anti-social behaviour. 196 buses were stopped, 1897 passengers spoken to throughout the operation, 1 male was found to be in the country illegally, 56 people were searched, 23 tickets withdrawn and 36 people summonsed for fraud offences.

Crime Prevention – Andy Drummond and a team of Community Support Officers delivered: burglary and auto crime presentation, mobile telephone marking, crime prevention advice booklets and personal safety advice. A Crime Reduction stand was placed at a community event in Sheil Road Community Event. Approximately 220 people were spoken to during the week and 15 further referrals taken.

Trading Standards / Police Test Purchase Operations – An underage volunteer attempted to purchase alcohol from Licensed premises and knives from outlets. 2 Licensed premises sold the volunteer alcohol and these received fixed penalty notices.

City Watch Warden Team – Warden team patrolled alongside the police and concentrated on: litter prosecutions, street furniture reports, lighting, truancy referrals and untaxed motor vehicle reports amongst other things. Alley dumping – 4 incidents, fly tipping locations – 24 referrals, street furniture – 22 referrals as well as sharps (needles), truants, littering and dog fouling.

Larry Murphy, our wonderful dedicated neighbourhood officer lead the work done by Neighbourhood Management Services – areas were monitored i.e. alleyways and letters were issued to residents who were found dumping rubbish in alleys prior to refuse collection day. 1022 skip leaflets were distributed to 15 roads. Bonfire material was removed from Coleridge Street with MFRS. Tour of area by Hillingdon Borough Council.

NEAT Team – trade waste visits to shops, 21 businesses with a contract, 6 businesses without contracts (Sec 34 notices being served) as well as fly tipping issues with no evidence.

Veolia – Regular bin and bag collections, cleansing of alleyways, emptying of blue contaminated recycling bins from Sheil Road for Kensington Clean Team to remove and store.

Enterprise Liverpool – General cleansing of all roads in area. 5 skips were placed out in Gloucester Court, Schomberg Street, Mallow Road, Morden Street and Upper Baker Street. 16 fly tipping jobs were cleared and 5 lots of offensive graffiti were cleared.

Kensington Wardens – Anti-Social Behaviour Workshop at Phoenix Primary School. Walk for Health – 100 pupils from Sacred Heart School attended. Bird Feeder Workshop with Surestart. 2500 newsletters were delivered. Regular patrols and void property checking was carried out.

Probation Service – Cutting back overhanging trees and shrubs from pathways in Newsham Park, cutting back ivy and bushes from walls in alleyways allowing clear access and refuse collection at 12 sites.

Kensington Clean Team/Morrisons Plc – Identification of white goods and gas bottles in alleyways, removal of remnants from abandoned cannabis factory, washing of pavements – removal of dog fouling, removal of large chest freezer full of rubbish, enhanced sweeping of area.

Healthier Communities & Older People

We had a good inter-generational event offering activities such as football, badminton, Wii Fit, salsa and massage to those attending as well as agencies such as Addaction, Psst and Fagends and Citysafe on hand to offer advice and support.

11 people accessed the Beat The Goalie competition, 10 people accessed the badminton and 12 people accessed the salsa and Wii Fit. All of these events were held at St Francis of Assisi School. Other organisations involved were SFA, Sports Alliance, PCT, Age Concern and Healing Space.

Children & Young People

Children & Young People – Tracey Ramsey from the Youth Service was great in co-ordinating the activities held for children and young people. For instance, a media workshop, climbing wall, beat the goalie, circus skills and market place were all well attended.

71 hours of activities were held in that week over 3 youth clubs in the area. Some extra sessions were funded for vulnerable groups. School sessions went well, Merseyside Fire & Rescue attended as well as Fag Ends and other agencies. Worked with 200 young people during the week. Children were taken out to parks for walks etc. Tracy raised the need to work with older children too i.e. 10 and above. Youth clubs need new children joining and more children need to know about the facilities and events available to them.

Children attended school assembly workshops with Merseyside Police and Fire and Merseytravel with regards to good behaviour. These projects will continue as a direct result of Respect Week. We paid for them out of our Working Neighbourhood Fund.

Positive feedback was received about the cooking sessions. The specialist make up workshop went well and we were able to hold some extra sessions due to extra funding. Question Time event at the town hall was very well attended with 120 young people from across the city taking park. The young people were found to be open to conversation, engaging and willing to take part and to think about the topics raised. Some young people felt that respect was very important, but they felt that it had to be shown to them first before they would show respect back. Louise particularly enjoyed this event which she took part in this year.

The Market Place involved 200 people, this involved presenting stalls i.e. Addaction, Connexions, Merseyside Fire and Rescue, FAG Ends and V Liverpool.

Economy & Enterprise

Lynn Debbazzi who is taking the lead on this, confirmed that 735 leaflets were distributed and that it was the best ever attendance for a job fair. 170 residents, 10 employers attended and bowls of scouse went down very well indeed.

As a result of this, Sony have said that they will do a ‘skills passport’ for local applicants and they will attend three times a year to similar events.

40 applications were received for vacancies at Matalan and 35 people came in to complete the career pathfinder. As a result of Respect Week, Job Café’s will now be held on a fortnightly basis within the local community. Venture Housing was an ideal location. Initial dates will be 13 Nov, 27 Nov, 11 Dec, 8 Jan, 22 Jan

Number of referrals to JET 69
Number of leaflets delivered 5,000
Number of Employers attending 10
Number of agencies attending 7

50 clients attending pre-screening events and interviews for:
Carlisle Security
Renown Rail
Taxi Drivers (self employment)
20 vacancies in total

35 residents interested in care vacancies awaiting outcomes from employers.

25 residents interested in a career at Sony

Sony have confirmed their support for RESPECT Weeks and have informed us they would attend up to 2 events a year and would donate goods for raffles etc. Sony are also considering a Skills passport to encourage more local people to apply for positions within their organisation.

15 residents were supported via career pathfinder identifying what job roles would be suitable

15 residents offered welfare benefits advice

10 residents had reflexology sessions

All in all Respect Week has been a tremendous success and we have written to everyone who worked so hard to make this week a success, thanks again!

Merseyside Fire Service talk about Bonfire Night

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service is thanking the community for helping make this the quietest Bonfire period for many years.

The number of anti-social behaviour fires, attacks on firefighters, fireworks seizures, inappropriate use of fireworks and cautions given to retailers were all down compared to last year.

The biggest success story was the reduction in anti-social behaviour fires. Since October 19 until the end of November 5 there have been around 800 incidents, compared with 1,438 the previous year.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mike Hagen said: “This has been the quietest Bonfire period for us for more than 10 years and we would like to thank the community for working with us and helping make this happen.

“This year we have organised our biggest operation in the run up to Bonfire Night, with 10 dedicated units working every evening including Small Fires Units, a Trojan Fire Engine and a Bonfire Removal Unit. We have worked with the police and other partner agencies to provide a co-ordinated response and the results speak for themselves.”

A great deal of proactive work has been done in the community to try and reduce incidents in the run up to November 5. This includes working with retailers to provide information about legal storage and sales of fireworks; and a scheme with councils, the probation service and the Fire Support Network charity to remove combustible materials.

Some of the successful results:

• More than 400 premises were inspected by the Fire Service and there was a 50% reduction in the number of fireworks seized

• Just two cautions were given to retailers, compared to 35 last year

• There were no incidents involving the misuse of industrial fireworks

• Attacks on firefighters was down by 50% compared to last year

• In excess of 200 tonnes of combustible material was cleared off the streets