Friday, January 30, 2009

Executive Board post held open for convicted criminal in hope he will win his legal appeal

I am really very angry about this.

Councillor Steve Hurst, Lib Dem, Wavertree ward, (where I live, represented by three councillors who have been or still are subject to Standards Board enquiries over their behaviours) was found guilty of an offence under the Representation of the People Act - I have blogged about the detail many times as the case has unfurled.

At Full Council this week, we were informed that Warren Bradley, LibDem and Council leader, had decided to hold this post open until such time as Steve Hurst's appeal against his conviction is heard. Presumably he prefers a convicted felon in absentia to a fully engaged alternative from his back benches. Presumably too this is because the only people that he could now choose from are those who did not vote for him in the leadership election.

And my understanding, after a question I asked at the Standards Committee, is that it could potentially be 6 months before that case is heard.

So, for the next 6 months or so, there will be NO Executive Member for Corporate Resources, rather his work and duties will be split up between other existing EMs. And we are expected to think that this is acceptable. And that they all have the slack and the extra capacity to take up this vital work, without it causing any of them any trouble at all.

I dont care what he was found guilty of, or why he is suspended, in this particular pont I wish to make, I would feel the same if he was perhaps instead incapacitated in some other way. What I vehemently object to is the holding open of this post, creating a cabinet of 9, rather than 10, just because it suits the LibDems politically.

Obviously it is a serious slur on the rest of their group's membership, that they could not even appoint an interim, but it is also a slur on democracy. What if there was to be a controversial vote within the Exec Board on a contentious item? Now there are only 9 of them to decide it.

Good luck to Hurst in his appeal (but I would not put my house on it), but it is not fair to the hundreds of thousands of people of Liverpool who are expected to simply do without, during this period.

It is simply NOT ethical.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Liverpool City Council - full council meeting January 28th 2009

- and what a total shambles it was, if you cannot keep up with what follows, then don't despair, you are in very good company!

We spent hours debating the budget proposals from the ruling LibDems, then amendments from the Labour Party, Green Party and Liberal Party.

There was a total lack of clarity over some of the issues - most particularly the proposed cut in services for Lollipop men and ladies - or a realignment as the Deputy Leader insisted on calling it.

Was the list of 25 affected school crossing patrols that Labour councillors had been provided with by the Executive Director, the right list, or was there a different list?

And was it a secret list?

And who wrote it?

Were there 24 schools or 25 that might be affected?

Were primary schools to be protected from the cuts in lollipop services as Councillor Flo Clucas, the Deputy Leader of the Council kept insisting, or not?

Was the cut only applicable to schools where the children were not permitted out of school at lunchtime, or not?

Was it also applicable to a primary school where the ward councillor said that actually the children leave en mass at lunch time to go to a different venue to get their lunch?

Were these schools with no (alleged) need for a lunch time patrol, only secondary schools or also primary schools?

And if the latter, did this mean that primary schools were being protected from the cuts, or not?

Was the Council Leader's offer to call a meeting tomorrow to get to the bottom of the cuts, sorry realignment, accepted?

Why did they need such a meeting if it was as crystal clear as the Deputy Leader kept insisting?

Did the Deputy Leader really say on the TV at the weekend that the changes did not include primary schools as she insisted?

And if so, why was that not in the transcript.

Did Councillor Paul Clark, LibDem, County Ward, really guarantee that Councillor Joe Hanson, Labour, Kirkdale ward, could sleep safely in his bed because none of the schools he was worried about would be affected?

And was he in a position to make such a promise?

Why had nobody on the LibDem back-benches seen the list of affected schools that had been shared with the Labour group?

And how would moving school patrols away from schools that dont need a lunch time service save £200,000?

And does the left hand within the LibDem administration have even the slightest idea what the right hand is doing?

And most importantly, are our children safe? Who knows, certainly not the Liberal Democrats!

The council meeting began at 4pm with a special meeting that lasted 4 minutes of the hour set aside for it, which then had us all sitting around idly for 55 minutes before the substantive meeting began. That lost time meant that when we finally got into the detail of the main meeting, with a very lengthy budget debate, we ran on and on until we were staring 10pm in the face.

A really key motion was deferred to a future meeting. This was despite substantial cross-party support, as far as I understand it. It concerns the desirability of all councillors to have enhanced CRB checks, enabling us to carry out our corporate parenting role, important in the wake of the death of Baby P. This was deferred despite considerable opposition (but not enough opposition), mainly because people said they were getting tired, although I heard several say to each other that it was because they wanted to watch the football! Why would someone who supported the motion not want to debate it and get it passed? All power to the elbow of my opposite number for being the only LibDem to put our children before the footie and vote to debate the motion there and then.

We hope to debate it in March, at the budget meeting, hardly an appropriate time if today is anything to go by. I felt we were being manipulated by those who are idealogically opposed to CRB checks in the first place and just wanted to put off the inevitable and that they were being supported by football supporters, and then it became a partisan issue, with the parties voting on block which was very wrong (Paula aside).

We then had a lengthy debate about the capital of culture - and whether it was all down to the LibDems or whether it was fairer to call it a cross-party success with the people of Liverpool being the real reason why the bid was successful. Actually that might have come before the CRB motion, I cannot recall now, but obviously we had time to talk about party politics and who had the bigger Dad. Colin Eldridge was keen to get some self-praise onto the floor of the chamber, most particularly he was keen that we should know that his head is visible in the photo when the news of the success of the bid was announced.

That would not surprise me at all, that he was in the photo, you only have to look at the latest edition of the City magazine (with Cilla on the front!!! and which I dont get delivered, in common with half the residents of my ward, because the distribution is very poor) to see how often he features in photos that do not concern his ward or his portfolio (well of course he does not have one of those any more). I dont know how he muscles his way into so many photos but it is amazing how often they go on to appear in his LibDem leaflets.

Incidentally, I carefully wrote down that he asked Cllr Flo Clucas what the total contribution from the "Government in all its guises" to Capital of Culture was, and she agreed with him that it was £29.63million.

And how much did they ask for initially? I understand it was £10million

So they asked for £10 million and the Government, in all its guises, paid across £29.63 million.

And the LibDems call this contribution "measly" and only this week said on the Marc Waddington blog "What really got me was your claim about the Government's £27M contribution. Crass, if it wasn't so wide of the mark"

There are those that suggest that blog contribution came from Eldridge himself, I dont know if that is true, but whichever LibDem it was must now eat their words.

Imagine turning your nose up at nearly £30million contribution, if it was as measly as all that, if it was so ungratefully received, I wonder if they should be asked to send the money back so it can be spent somewhere where it can be appreciated.

And what a shame that I have continually underestimated the contribution by "Government in all its guises" by £2.6 million, calling it £27 million when it was closer to £30 million. Rest assured I won't make that mistake again!

We have it from Flo herself, and Paul Brant and I both made a big show of writing that answer down, and we wont forget it.

So we had time to make cheap political digs, but it seems we did not have time to talk about our responsibility for looked-after children

We had a motion on the table with total cross-party support, that we should support the idea of a Liverpool Pride, the LGBT supporters had sat for 6 hours to hear us vote on this. It should have been 90-nil (or whatever proportion of councillors were still in the chamber by now) but it was with a ripple of shock that we heard two LibDem councillors announce their opposition to the plan. It went through of course, but it was still a matter of extreme disappointment and concern that it was not unanimous (Councillors Stuart Monkcom and Phil Moffatt voted against it - both I think for religious reasons which I must call misplaced).

I am sure the shambles and the disgraces piled up in other areas, but really, you had to be there. Or then again, if you beleive in representative democracy it is probably better that you weren't.


Liverpool City Councillors IT equipment "out of the ark"

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Labour Councillors office in the Municipal Buildings, where we have 4 computers between 39 of us. I was between meetings and thought I would catch up on my council emails and casework - which I usually access from an old-lap top I inherited from Jimmy Kendrick when I defeated him at the ballot box in 2006. However, on this occasion I used one of the stand-alone PCs we are provided with.

It took 20 minutes to fire-up and log me in, then up to 3 minutes to open each email.

I became very angry as the steam-driven system was clearly not being sufficiently stoked by the boiler man.

Eventually, in fury, I hand wrote a motion to be submitted to the Corporate Services Select Committee later that week and walked it upstairs to the Committee Services office, given that I could not actually type it up and email it, on account of how the whole system was in melt-down.

My motion said

"This committee notes with concern the current very slow speeds on the computers available for use by Councillors, both within group offices and on occasion on laptops.

This committee is aware that the City Council’s contract with Liverpool Direct Limited (LDL) to deliver IT provision for members costs the council tax payers of Liverpool a very large sum of money. This committee believes that the current situation does not demonstrate money well spent on supporting members to support their constituents. This committee calls for urgent action to be taken by either partner to the contract to ensure that members/councillors are given full access to the fastest possible servers and the best possible equipment available within the contract."

We took this motion at the subsequent committee on January 21st.

The following information prepared by the officers in response to the motion, was circulated at the meeting –

The Committee will be well aware that one of the first projects delivered by Liverpool Direct Limited following the setting up of the Joint Venture with the City Council was to make a significant investment to improve the failing network infrastructure. This involved the relocation of the data centre from India Buildings to the Municipal Buildings and the replacement of the cabling and the servers and the provision of improved cabling and more robust and resilient servers. Members will be aware that this project has resulted in vastly reduced downtime and more stable network connections.

The responsibility for the provision of equipment both in the Group Offices and Members own laptops or personal computers for use at home is that of the Committee Services Business Unit. Taking into account recent concerns expressed to him by both Members and colleagues within the service, the Head of Committee Services has raised two individual business enquiries with Liverpool Direct Limited for the replacement of the Office equipment and the Members home equipment.

From initial discussions the capital cost of replacement of the Office personal computers will be in the region of £50,000 and the capital cost of replacing the Members home equipment will be in the region of £110,000. The Head of Committee Services is currently in discussion with the City Treasurer to ascertain whether these costs can be found from within the budget for 2009/10.

If achievable and approved this will provide members with the most up to date laptops with built in wireless technology to enable them to connect to the Council's network irrespective of their location. The Head of Committee Services is also in discussions regarding the provision of a case management system for Members."

As I told the Daily Post in an article in Saturday's paper which has not been reproduced online sadly, my residents in Kensington have better IT systems than I do, and they bought theirs at a tenth of the price. (We pay £2000 a year for each councillor in respect of IT provision dont forget).

During the discussion which took place at the committee, the following issues were raised –

Whether the relocation of the data centre to the Municipal Buildings and the replacement of the cabling and the servers and the provision of improved cabling and more robust and resilient servers, as detailed in the response from officers, has actually resulted in reduced downtime and more stable network connections

The anticipated cost of the proposals and the progress of the current examination of the contract with Liverpool Direct Limited

The possibility of utilizing open source software

The proposed introduction of the casework management system - I have been waiting for this since May 2006 and still we use lined notebooks!

It was agreed that –

a) The response to the Motion be approved and discussions continue as indicated; and

b) A progress report be submitted to the second meeting of the Committee in the next municipal year.

I am not holding my breath - we are paying huge sums of money to LDL for the IT equipment, and for which according to Daily Post journalist David Bartlett, we are paying more for than their partners BT charge the general public.

And the equipment has been second rate since I was elected, nearly three years ago.

In the newspaper article a council spokesperson said the likely problem with slow connections at home would be the age of the equipment, no kidding.

Just think, the council has already paid £6k for my laptop and access to those old machines in the Labour Group office - and my phone line - just since I was elected, and probably another £2k for providing a service to Jimmy Kendrick in the previous year or two.

And what do we have to show for that? Even Bill Gates would not spend that on his own equipment.

It is a disgraceful example of procurement and the council must bear down hard on the LDL contract.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Peckforton Castle Medieval Banquet

We had our Christmas Party in January this year, just three weeks after Noel, to enable the maximum number of my colleagues to attend.

We had a wonderful evening at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, just south of Tarporley. Although it is a relatively new castle, built in the 1850s by an MP who became a Lord, it is built in a traditional style and has been listed as Grade I.

We had a medieval themed evening and everyone dressed up. There were Knights, Princes, Princesses, Monks, numerous Lords and Ladies, Peasants, Jesters, swash-buckling Pirates and lusty Wenches and even our own Executioner.

We had a traditional Christmas meal, turkey and trimmings, rather than chicken legs, game and mead, but it still felt very special.

We were entertained throughout the evening by a professional Jester (from Chester!) who tumbled, juggled, capered and scampered. And then we had a good old-fashioned disco (lots of Abba) and the wine flowed.

The castle is fabulous, old, cold stone walls and lintels, deep brocade and damask draperies and upholstery, splendid beds with heavy wooden head and foot boards.

And they parked my car for me because it was raining and dark and a long way to the car park from reception. And then they were kind enough to go all the way back to it to collect the phone I stupidly left on the dashboard (which was a bit of a waste of their time as it turned out as there was no reception anywhere in the castle.)

My generous bosses paid the meal, the room and the wine, all I had to do was find a suitable outfit and turn up.

We had a ball, and I can heartily recommend it for a very special night out!

Meetings, meetings everywhere

Last week was madness, have you ever had one of those weeks when all you do is sit in meetings?

On Monday I went to work - which was busy busy busy followed by Labour Group Executive Board.

On Tuesday I was at Venture Housing Board in Kenny from 10am until 4pm - Chairs meeting, Board meeting and then interviewing prospective new board members

On Tuesday night I went to Overview and Scrutiny Select Committee, where I became angry and then despondent at the refusal of the chair to allow us to carry out indepth reviews through scrutiny panels, we should be exemplars. I was totally out of sorts when we finished.

On Wednesday morning I went back to Venture, after some points I had raised the previous day, to help them organise their Equality Impact Assessments in a way that would work for me as Board champion for Equality and Diversity and for other board members; ten of us sat round the table, it was hard work but I think we got somewhere with it in the end.

Then I had an hour with Contact Creator, before I went back to Venture who host our monthly Partership meetings for all the agencies in L6 - Putting neighbourhoods first. I was uplifted, at last, by a really positive meeting, achieving things and putting our residents priorities at the heart of our work. I cannot praise this group enough. And we got a chippy dinner - my first chips this year

I had City and North Neighbourhood Partnership Working Group for Physical Regeneration (not a title for the faint hearted) at 3pm, we had a good presentation on BSF, and a good chat about our priorities. Sadly even with a two hour meeting some stuff did not get to the top of the agenda so we will have to hold things over until the District Committee or next NPWG. I enjoyed the update on Stop the Rot and Buildings at Risk. We have to say goodbye to Mike Eccles, he is being replaced by his manager, Nigel Lee at future meetings, but will keep a quiet eye on our progress. He has been great and we thanked him quite profusely.

Then at 5pm, like a glutton for punishment I had my other select committee - Corporate Services - to talk about the LibDem budget, I left the questioning to our Deputy Leader and Finance guru, Paul Brant, in the main part, but did raise a question about whether and what capital assets the council might hold outside of the bounds of the authority, ie outside of Liverpool. I look forward to hearing the answer. Who knows what we might learn.

On Thursday I was back in Kenny, at the Community Safety Task Group which this month we held at Edge Hill Youth club for a change. The police service, fire service, Liverpool ASB team, Crime Direct (Chamber of Commerce), Community Wardens, Youth Service, HEAT Domestic Violence and local residents, and councillors talk about crime and anti-social behaviour and diversionary activities. All good stuff, lots of intelligence about crime and ASB being passed to and fro

There is a big anti-burglary, home safe event tomorrow/today at the Police club - targetting vulnerable and older people and helping them stay safe - they are expecting about 200 people, I said I would go in my lunch hour to join in for a while. There might even be a bowl of soup in it for me.

Then on Thursday night it was the Fairfield Neighbourhood Assembly where tempers were raised very high over the proposed demolition of properties on Prescot Road and Drive. It was a tough meeting, we also got into a lot of detail about snaggings on the CML estate and the ongoing works on the GEARS and FARA areas with frontage improvements. I was totally wiped out when I came outside.

I went to work on Friday, the highpoint was publishing one of my monthly newsletters in a new way where I can see who has opened it and how many times, what a scary proposition, you can kid yourself that 100% read something you create until a system like that is set up. I look forward to work today/tomorrow to see what the stats show.

Then we had surgery on Friday night, then the Kensington Remembers event all day and night on Saturday - after leafletting in Old Swan - and then Liam and I went out door-knocking on Sunday afternoon.

Today I spent the morning online sorting out our HLF bid for the cemetery on Deane Road, then I had lunch with my mate Elaine, then the cemetery committee at 2pm, then Labour Exec Board at 4.30pm and Labour Group at 6pm and was home at 8pm to write 60 emails of case work and policy revision.

I do feel like I need a rest, but there is no time for that, back to work tomorrow!

A councillor's work is never done - now don't get me wrong, I love it, and I love making a difference, but some weeks are hard and if you are not achieving what you want to achieve, or people are being obstinate or obdurate or just downright difficult, you can sometimes be left wondering if it is all worth it.

I will feel better tomorrow - after work, and after my steering committee, I am going to the pictures with Colin to see Slumdog Millionaire, now that should see me right!

National Holocaust Commemoration Day - Tuesday

A thought from Pastor Martin Niemoller

When the Nazis came for the communists
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the socialists
I remained silent;
I was not a socialist.
When they came for the trade unionists
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out

More on the Pastor here and here

Kensington Remembered

Kensington spent ten hours on Saturday, remembering and commemorating, the Holocaust of WW2, affecting principly Jews, but also gays, people with disabilities, non-conformists and gypsies.

We also remembered and commemorated more recent genocides and ethnic cleansing in countries who now have a community within Kensington

Principly; D R Congo, Rwanda, Birindi, Dafur, Kosovo, Kurdistan, Roma people, Czechs and Slovaks

We watched the deeply disturbing film "A painful reminder" filmed during the liberation of Auschwitz by Sidney Bernstein, we debated rape as method of control in African civil wars, we heard about new schemes in Liverpool to help raped Asylum seekers.

We had an hour of performances from young people - the Polish Saturday School, Yellow House and Home Grown Music, all very moving and uplifting, our future as a country is in very safe hands.

We had different ethnic foods (although nobody was very hungry after watching films of people starving to death) and we finished with two and a half hours of individual commemorations from the communities above.

A long day, a hard day, everyone was weeping, everyone was moved, but everyone had their chance to say what was in their hearts and there was a palpable love and warmth and support throughout the room (the main hall in St Francis of Assisi Academy)

I want to thank everyone for their contributions, you were all magnificent, thank you for letting me chair the day

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How much the Labour Government spent on Liverpool's Capital of Culture

For your information - the Lib Dems keep insisting that the Government has not contributed to the Capital of Culture.

They are being grossly uneconomical with the truth

LCC asked for £10million of public money from the Government to support Capital of Culture. They have in fact had £27.37 million from the Government direct and through its agencies. Even European Money is match funded by Government

Note from Director of Finance, LCC, July 2007 follows - more funds will have been drawn down since he wrote this.

"During the period 2005/6- 2008/9 the DCMS have agreed to provide funding of £5m. This is provided via the Arts Council which has also agreed to provide funding of £5m making a total of £10m. Of this amount £6m has been received to date.

In addition the Arts Council have provided £320,000 towards the Friendship and £100,000 for the funding of a specific post.

During the period 2005/6-2008/9 there are agreements in place for funding from a range of funding partners:

a) ERDF Phase 3 Grant £10m ( of which £3.9m has been drawn down )

ERDF Phase 2 Grant £2.5m ( Drawn down in respect of 2003/4 and 2004/5)

b) North West Development Agency £2m ( Plus £250,000 re 2004/5)

c) Urban Cultural Programme £1.2m

d) Funding for specific posts of over £0.5m over the period from organizations including:

Arts and Business North West

English Heritage


Sport England

Learning and Skills Council

e) Funding for specific programme costs of over £0.5m from organizations including:


Merseyside Waterfront Regional Park


CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Environment)

Of course if the LibDems dont want this money, they could always give it back?

First ever Asian leader elected in Kirklees as Tories are forced out

Read the full story here

Great news! My old friend Mehboob Khan is now leading Kirklees in a Lab/LibDem coalition (not so great) after a vote of no-confidence brought an end to Tory rule.

It is a result of a contraversial BSF scheme which it is alleges favoured Tory wards.

(That is about where to build the new secondary schools of the future and which schools might have to move or merge in the process)

What a great time for the first ever Asian leader of Kirklees to be elected, the day after the first black President of USA was inaugurated - change is indeed coming

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ice skating and a Christmas Fair in Fairfield - video

Putting Neighbourhoods First, which Councillors attend with partners and agencies, agreed to fund a Christmas event in Fairfield at St Francis of Assisi Academy in December.

We spent about £9k between us - Councillors using some of the WNF budget and lots of our RSLs putting cash in, LHT, Venture, LMH, C7 etc, and the event was organised by Lisa from the school.

It was great fun, there was an internet cafe, face-painting, a survey and chance to win a big fluffy dog with LHT, Kenny the Superlambana was there, as was Father Christmas in a beautiful grotto designed by LIPA students working with pupils and there was a great little ice-rink

Steve Faragher has made a video which you can see here, it just shows what a lovely time everyone had.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fuel Poverty (Eradication) Bill update

I have been working with the Association for the Conservation of Energy to encourage those MPs lucky enough to be have pulled out of the draw for the Private Members Ballot (of MPs in Westminster) to take on the Fuel Poverty (Eradication) Bill.

I have been lobbying Lindsay Hoyle, Labour MP for Chorley to take up this bill as he was lucky enough to be pulled out of the draw. In the end Lindsay let me know that although he is very supportive of this cause, and has been working on it for a couple of years already, someone else the Association had also lobbied has already chosen to take it forwars - a Lib Dem MP named David Heath - and so he would be finding another subject for his own bill.

This email reproduced below explains where the Association will go with this bill about fuel poverty next. I hope everyone in Liverpool can get behind it.

"Dear Cllr Baldock,

I am delighted to inform you that David Heath, the Lib Dem MP for Somerton and Frome, has agreed to adopt the Fuel Poverty (Eradication) Bill. He was drawn at number 2 in the Private Members’ Ballot, which means that the Bill will be allocated a significant chunk of precious Parliamentary time.

I would like to extend my warm thanks to you for taking the time and trouble to write to Lindsay Hoyle, and although this Bill has now been adopted by a Liberal Democrat MP I feel sure that you will continue to support this important campaign so that we can ensure an end to fuel poverty once and for all!

As you know, the Bill is being supported by a broad coalition of organisations, who together form the Sustainable Energy Partnership (SEP).

The Partnership includes all the major environmental and fuel poverty NGOs and relevant sustainable energy trade associations. SEP has an unrivalled track record in campaigning for resources, legislation and targets to create a more sustainable UK energy policy. We campaign not just on fuel poverty, but on broader climate change issues; we promote a wide range of energy efficiency and sustainable energy policies.

SEP also has an active supporter network, without whom we would achieve significantly less! Given your interest in the Fuel Poverty (Eradication) Bill, I would be delighted to register you as a SEP supporter so that you can be kept up to date with the campaign, but do let me know if you would prefer not to receive any further communications.

Thanks again for your support.

Best wishes,

Olivia Andrews

Parliamentary Campaigner

Association for the Conservation of Energy"

I have removed her contact details so that she is not spammed

If you want to learn more about the Association and the campaign, please here

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kensington Remembers - Holocaust commemoration - January 24th 2009

Please consider putting this event in your diary. It is of course a very serious event, looking at the Holocaust and more modern genocide as it has affected and goes on affecting residents in Kensington.

Not only is it part of Liverpool's offering for Holocaust Remembrance Day next Tuesday but in the week when the first black President of the United States of America is inaugurated, it is especially poignant to look at how life still is for many Africans in particular.

The afternoon is only for the deadly serious, with a long debate about the use of rape as a method of fear and control in genocide, but the evening should be lighter. We have youth performances at 6pm (they wont be permitted access until after the debate has finished), ethnic food from India and Africa at 7pm and then commemorative performances from some of the groups represented in Kensington who have suffered or still do in their native countries; Jews, Roma, Kosovans, Darfurians, Poles, Slovaks, Congolese, Kurds and Rwandans.
We expect music, dance, drama and poetry.

The event ends at 10.30pm

If you click on the picture you will be able to read it properly

Friday, January 16, 2009

5000 mile sponsored walk for MS research

Email update from Andy Monk who is walking 5000 miles for MS research and is doing a wonderful job, we all owe people like him so much for his tireless efforts

Dear Councillor Baldock,

My apologies for the long pause but I have been caring for Gwen while MS has been treating her with utter contempt.

We managed to finish most of the Northern section of the walk before MS forced us to stop for a while. Thankfully Gwen is more or less back on her feet now and we will hopefully be heading for Cheshire in the next couple of weeks to continue the walk. We will finish off the Northern section of the walk later in the year.

We have walked through some beautiful parts of the country that we have never seen before, met some fabulous people, and made a lot of new friends along the way. The support we have received has been just excellent, it really has been an inspiration to us both and given us so much hope.

Apart from Gwen's MS having its own schedule things have gone swimmingly. One of the hardest parts of the walk so far was over the moors between Haworth and Hebden Bridge. Gwen was at home recovering and I had decided to catch up a bit on the walking. I met up with a group of supporters in Keighley who walked the mile with me towards Haworth.

What came next was a challenge to say the least. Once up on the tops it was driving rain and gale force winds. I had to lean sideways into the wind to be able to walk straight, and even then the force of the wind blew me onto the verge a few times; this was a battle against the elements, but faced with such extreme conditions all I needed to do was to remind myself of the reason I was there and it suddenly became so easy. Driving rain and gale force winds are no match for determination of the kind that is bred from seeing what MS can do to someone you love. Once the road started dropping down again towards Hebden Bridge the sun came out and there was the most awesome of views across a vast wooded vale adorned with a thousand shades of autumn colour.

In November we were lucky enough to walk through Hyde Park with little Luke, son of Lynda Carthy who runs the British Trust for The Myelin Project, one of the charities we are raising funds for; he's a beautiful little boy who has a Leukodystrophy, his smile lights up your day, you'd never forget it. Lynda's daughter Natasha walked with us too and raised £97 for TMP.

I have still to add up how much we have raised in sponsorship, but all donations are listed here

Will keep in touch.

Kindest regards



Funding diversionary activities for young people through As One

As One, which is organised by Business Crime Direct in Liverpool meets every month in Kensington, hosted by C7 and I am a member of the committee. Kensington and Fairfield Labour Councillors have contributed funds from our Working Neighbourhood Fund too. The “As” in “As One” stands for “Anti-Social” and the committee works on finding things for kids and young people to do so that they are safely occupied and not on the streets committing AS behaviour (ASB).

Last week we recapped on all the activities we have supported during the last year. There was ice-skating on mischief night in North Wales and the same night a party in the Police Club in Fairfield for the younger children. We supported a Frenzy night at St Francis of Assisi Academy school for 11 – 16 year olds. For the second year running (or maybe third?), we sent every year 6 child in the ward to a Your Choice conference designed to limit ASB which they absolutely love because of all the music and drama involved.

And lots of other things besides.

We learnt from the police that 10 tonnes of wood and other flammable material was removed from the residential streets of K&F during bonfire week so that kids could not start fires. We also heard that ASB was considerably down on mischief night and that virtually no fireworks now go off in the run up to November 5th. All credit to the Labour Government for introducing those laws I campaigned for so long ago. I might stick a piccie up if I can find one of me and David Bowe MEP on a stall in Holmfirth getting signatures on a petition.

I told them about the new young people’choir we are setting up and supporting in the area, and about our support for training kids for this year’s radio station and about our work with the detached youth workers on the Molyneux.

We are seeking new committee members so if you are interested in joining us to keep kids safely occupied, please get in touch.

Barbie on message in dog fouling campaign

I thought my mate Susan was pulling my leg when she told me about this yesterday, but it seems it is true.

Mattel have brought out a toy dog, Barbie's own dog, Tanner, who eats dog biscuits, then poos, then Barbie uses her pooper scooper to pick up the poo then she puts away in the dog poo bin (which then transforms back into a box of dog biscuits so the whole thing can go round again)

Apparently Dylan is so enamoured with this poohing dog that he wants to buy his Dad one for his birthday.

And just so you know I have not made it up, here is a link to a video on YouTube of an advert from three years ago.

How could I not have heard of this before? It has been out for a good few years apparently but there must have been a veil of silence cast over it as I am sure I would have picked up on it.

Just think, I could have used one as a prop in my debate in the town hall last year about the lack of dog wardens in Liverpool. I could have been lifting that tail up and down to persuade the dog, which looks a bit like a golden retriever, to first eat and then pooh.

And I just KNOW Steve Faragher is going to be fascinated by this. And they are only £20.00

Here is an advert from Amazon complete with reviews from Mums and Dads.

- there is a peeing cat too but I am less interested in that, Barbie changes the cat litter tray apparently.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cabinet position held open while guilty councillor appeals - and Standards Board are emasculated

The story in the Liverpool Echo yesterday tells you more or less all you need to know about the latest position with LibDem Councillor Hurst of Wavertree ward, Liverpool.

The Standards Board have elected not to process his case because they say that following the precedent set by the High Court in the case of Ken Livingston, his actions were not made whilst on official duties as a councillor. He was campaigning and electioneering which are apparently unrelated, as is, we must assume, the fact that he was found guilty in a court of law of an offence against the representation of the people act, despite being a representative of the people.

As the Ethical Governance shadow cabinet member I shall be discussing this matter with the Standards Committee and the City Solicitor tomorrow. I shall not discuss the details of this particular case but shall ask what mechanisms are open to us to influence future policy and guidance of the Standards Board so that such precedents are not applied to similar cases in the future. I shall also be asking whether the change of procedure that was introduced a few weeks after Councillor Hurst committed his criminal offence would have achieved a different result if it had been able to be applied.

A much deeper concern to me though is that since Councillor Hurst resigned his position as a Cabinet Member, the remaining 9 members of the Executive have decided to divvy up his work between them and not appoint a successor, pending the outcome of an appeal to Crown Court. They have not been able to furnish me with a list of who will carry out which part of the duties, nor any explanation of why they even have the slack to take on this extra work.

I have not been able to discover how long it might take before a case is heard in Crown Court, but it could easily be months, surely.

Liverpool City Council received 1 star from the Audit Commission - we have not forgotten this, despite the efforts of the Leader and Chief Exec to draw a line under the whole business by failing to mention the star rating ANYWHERE IN THE ENTIRE ANNUAL REPORT (and that is a scandal all on its own) - and yet the post of Cabinet Member for Corporate Performance is held over indefinitely.

So much for Corporate Performance - I see another 1 star on the horizon once the Audit Commission learn that there is no-one actively in charge of

performance management
corporate improvement reviews
business planning
human resources
or health and safety

This is how much this LibDem council really care, they want to hold a place open for a convicted criminal (hoping obviously that he will be cleared by a retrial), rather than appoint someone else to the post.

Unofficially, speaking as a campaigner, and not as a councillor (!) I wonder how much this decision is based on the fact that the 26 people who voted for Warren in the leadership campaign have already been rewarded and there is no appetite to bring anyone else in? Or does he have a dearth of talent to choose from?

Bitter irony as new British Citizens are asked to pledge allegiance to Queen's heirs and successors which includes Prince Harry

Just a quick note really. I spoke at a lovely ceremony today, delighted to welcome people into British Citizenship. Even the little children, beautifully dressed in their Sunday best, were joining in.

As part of their ceremony new citizens are asked to pledge allegiance to the Queen, her heirs and successors. And on the same day we see Prince Harry in a video he made himself calling a fellow soldier a "Paki" and another one a "Raghead" because he was wearing a teatowel on his head.

Members of the Windsor family expect people to bend their knee to them and for them to honour them and look up to them, and indeed for them to pledge allegiance to them. And then they behave like this. It is a total disgrace

It is no wonder I'm a republican is it?

(Yes I have thought long and hard about whether a republican should act as a dignatory at a citizenship ceremony. I am not asked to say anything that I dont believe in and I am passionate about welcoming new citizens and about sharing what is the best about being British. I dont have to pledge any allegiances during the ceremony myself, having been born British, and there are MPs in Parliament who are republicans who get through their ceremonies okay. So I came to a decision that it was okay for me to take part, I love doing it.

Of course if there is a public outcry now I have dared to criticise a Prince (is it treasonable? Off with her head!), I will reclaim my Sundays and ask my critics to help find another volunteer from within the council to take my place. But hopefully it wont come to that.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Young Conservatives beggar belief

If you ever had the slightest doubt, even the tiniest smidgeon of hesitation about whether the Conservatives might still be the revolting people that Theresa May once described as "the nasty party", you will lose that potential softening in an instant when you read this story from the Daily Telegraph.

A young Conservative member who posed with David Cameron during the Crewe and Nantwich by-election has hosted a bad taste party where he dressed up as missing Madeleine McCann and a friend dressed up as Baby P, whilst others discussed dressing up as Robert Murat, the man who was initially accused of complicity in Madeleine's disappearance and the wife and daughter of Josef Fritzl, who were kept imprisoned in a cellar in Amstetten, Austria.

Of course this Young Conservative, Chair of the Staffordshire branch, has been expelled - but only, I would suggest, because the story got out, God only knows what they think is good fun for a New Year party that we never get to hear about.

There is bad taste and there is execrable taste - you decide


Ged at work sent me this email, I thought it was very interesting, especially the stuff about using your key fob to unlock your car from hundreds of miles away, if anyone gets to test this please let us all know if it works.

There are a few things that can be done in times of grave emergencies. Your mobile phone can actually be a life saver or an emergency tool for survival. Check out the things that you can do with it:


The Emergency Number worldwide for Mobile is 112. If you find yourself out of the coverage area of your mobile; network and there is an emergency, dial 112 and the mobile will search any existing network to establish the emergency number for you, and interestingly this number 112 can be dialed even if the keypad is locked. Try it out.

Have you locked your keys in the car?

Does your car have remote keyless entry? This may come in handy someday. Good reason to own a cell phone: If you lock your keys in the car and the spare keys are at home, call someone at home on their mobile phone from your cell phone.
Hold your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the person at your home press the unlock button, holding it near the mobile phone on their end. Your car will unlock. Saves someone from having to
drive your keys to you. Distance is no object. You could be hundreds of miles away, and if you can reach someone who has the other 'remote' for your car, you can unlock the doors (or the trunk).
Editor's Note: It works fine! We tried it out and it unlocked our car over a mobile phone!'

Hidden Battery Power

Imagine your mobile battery is very low. To activate, press the keys *3370# Your mobile will restart with this reserve and the instrument will show a 50% increase in battery. This reserve will get charged when you charge your mobile next time.

How to disable a STOLEN mobile phone?

To check your Mobile phone's serial number, key in the following digits on your phone * # 0 6 #
A 15 digit code will appear on the screen. This number is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe. When your phone get stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code. They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless. You probably won't get your phone back, but at least you know that whoever stole it can't use/sell it either. If everybody does this, there would be no point in people stealing mobile phones.

I have done this latter myself, and also have my postcode written invisibly under my battery, the police helped me do both things at a festival in Newsham Park.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

LibDems split as Prime Minister brings cabinet to Liverpool

Original post edited as follows -

LibDems in Liverpool are split about the cabinet coming to Liverpool. Paula Keaveney, Councillor for Ethical Governance, is complaining about the cost to the tax payer of any policing and calling it a publicity stunt.

I am not sure what the problem with publicity is, we want everyone to know that Liverpool has been chosen as one of the very first places the cabinet want to hear from. That our voices matter. Surely we dont want to hide that under a bushel. And the ministerial visits being undertaken across Liverpool and the North-West today, on the back of the cabinet meeting, are all of huge benefit to us. We are showcasing our best projects and drawing attention to those things where we badly need help.

Whereas I see that the Deputy Leader of the Libdems in Liverpool, Cllr Clucas has said "It’s always good when politicians get out of the Westminster village to see what life outside is really like.”

I am with Flo on this, it is good that politicians get out of their ivory towers and come and meet real people who can tell them about how life is currently being experienced in Picton, Croxteth, Everton or Anfield, or any of the other places Cabinet ministers have visited today. And those 200 or so who turned up at the Q&A round table forum with ministers at the Convention Centre today or those members of the business community who met the Prime Minister and 5 Secretaries of State last night in the Newz Bar.

I wonder if the LibDems would reject a visit from Barak Obama, or the Pope, for instance, on the grounds that we dont want to pay the policing, or would some of them think it was an honour that Liverpool was chosen? I know which way I look at it.

And you can be absolutely sure they all would be moaning like hell if the cabinet had gone to Manchester - saying Liverpool had been overlooked.

I tell you what it is, sour grapes!

Everyone in Britain (apart from David Cameron - who ironically brought the shadow cabinet to Liverpool in 2006 but appears to have forgotten that - and evidently at least some Liverpool LibDems) would agree that politicians need to listen and learn and act upon the things that matter to people and what better way than that they take the cabinet out to those people.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Young People Speak - in Kensington

Kensington Vision working with Open Circle have been engaging some Kenny lads in a discussion about things that interest them and about how it is to be young in Kenny today.

I went along to the third session, where they talked for an hour, round a table, with youth workers and in this particular case, with representatives from the County FA about some ideas they had been developing in previous sessions for setting up a football tournament.

They wanted their football tournament to be set up in the name of, and to remember, 16 year old Joseph Lappin who was fatally stabbed to death outside a youth club in Everton in October and they wanted to use the phrase "Pick up a ball, not a knife".

To say I was impressed with the young men would be a total understatement. They looked like the kind of lads that old ladies are frightened of, slouching, wearing hoodies, but actually they were full of enthusiasm and great ideas.

I would urge anyone, from anywhere in the country, who sees this entry, to download the podcast, listen to the lads talk, listen to how they have organised themselves, contrast this with the continual barrage of media coverage about violent gang members in Liverpool. It will restore your faith completely. Please do leave comments here and on the podcast website. I am really interested to hear what you think.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Happy New Year 2009 and a quick review of 2008

It is customary for me to review my personal experience of last year while wishing all my friends, family, constituents, colleagues and readers all the best for 2009. On the other hand, those tiny few anti-social misfits who also like to read the blog in order to send me rude and insulting messages can play like a Christmas Turkey and get stuffed.

The best things about 2008 - in no particular order - are

1. The birth of Alice
2. Liverpool European Capital of Culture and the resultant visits from my Dad, Brother, Mum and Roger and numerous pals - I cannot think of anything better than showing people who are special to me round the city which is special to me.
3. Liam Robinson taking the third seat in Kensington and Fairfield for Labour (or should I now learn to call it "Fortress Fairfield and Kensington"? Snort
4. Christmas in Portugal with my mates
5. Superlambananas
6. Berlin with Lisa to celebrate our 30 year friendship
7. My great new job with great new people - it will be a year since I started in just a few weeks' time
8. Citizenship Ceremonies
9. Becoming a shadow cabinet member
10. National Carbon Monoxide Awareness week coming to Liverpool
11. Two Liverpool Murals
12. The Boro Man City result in May
13. Meeting the Irish President
14. Operation Black Vote - and meeting Caroline and Natalie in particular
15. Deane Road Cemetery open day
16. Cath and Steve finally getting married after all these years
17. Isaac loving going to school
18. Supporting the congregation of St John the Divine in their efforts to save their church and spire.
19. Going back to St Andrews Methodists in Tamworth where I used to worship 30 years ago.

My funniest story for 2008 dates back to January and the National Holocaust Event at the Phil - not in itself remotely funny of course and in fact deeply moving. However, while we were waiting for the event to start, I was looking round and spotted a bearded man in one of the boxes close to the stage. He looked very familiar and I was trying to think where I knew him from. Was he a regular at the Richmond quiz? Was he perhaps a neighbour? I thought he might live in Fairfield and then that he was either a resident of Fairfield Crescent or perhaps was a worshipper with Jim and Deb at St John's. Anyway, having thought for a while unsuccessfully, I stopped looking at him and let my mind wander, something Wendy always advocates when she cannot think of someone's name. Then bam! I had it, he was the Arch Bishop of Canterbury, whoops!

Things I didnt like in 2008

1. Breaking my coccyx - which still hurts from time to time
2. Wendy's terrible fall - which was beyond awful
3. Missing out on victory in the Picton, County and Knotty Ash wards - the latter two by only tiny slivers of a margin
4. Losing the battle for the Prescot Road/Drive Houses - I cried at the meeting and after it
5. Dylan being in hospital with a lump on one of his lymph nodes

And my hopes for 2009?

To consolidate our position in Liverpool Wavertree, and in Kensington and Fairfield in particular, by developing new and innovative ways of communicating with our residents about all the work going on in the area.

To lay the groundwork for a 2010 local government victory across the whole of the city - taking control of the council

To prepare for victory in all five Parliamentary constituencies so that we are ready when the PM calls us up to the mark.

That Liverpool can be as exciting to residents and tourists alike this year as it was in our special year and that people will still come and will keep on enjoying themselves.

And that the final year of New Deal in Kensington can deliver as much as possible before time and the Labour Government's money runs out in March 2010. My personal hope is for anything to help with jobs and employment and self-employment, and for a campaign to keep the wardens service and the local new deal police force going afterwards.

Thanks to all my readers this year - 30,000 of you hit the blog in 2008, without you there would be no entries, I need to know that someone is listening if I am to keep writing!

Special best wishes must go to Scouseboy, my most regular reader, may 2009 be everything you wished for and more.