Saturday, February 28, 2009

2-Nil, 2-Nil, 2-Nil, 2-Nil


Boro 2, Liverpool Nil


A cup victory, getting us into the quarter finals and now a win over Liverpool, are we out of the relegation zone? I must get the newspapers tomorrow, I hope we have moved up far enough to make it begin to count.

Why can we always beat the top teams and never the bottom ones, WBA anyone?

Apologies to Wendy and Russ and Thwaity, but I have to celebrate my boys getting such a good quality 3 points.

Over the moon!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Did you know that on this day (yesterday actually but I forgot to post it) in 1946, the first bananas arrived in Britain following WWII - in Garston, Liverpool!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Can we find new uses for our empty pubs to benefit the community?

I have been thinking about two problems and wondering if they could be brought together to create two solutions.

We have been approached countless times by community groups who are desperate for a building from where they can run their organisations. Urban First Aid for instance would like somewhere to store their first aid stuff and to train their first aiders and for a little office. The Polish community would like their own Polish club. The Liverpool African Association would like a centre, the Indian Protestants would like somewhere they could turn into a small church and Open Circle would like a youth club - and I could go on at length.

But we don't have any buildings and we don't have any money to provide any buildings.

What we do have though, is an increasing number of shut-down pubs. I have not counted them all, but there are probably 10 in our ward alone. They mainly have "For Sale" or "To Let" signs outside but we all know they will stay empty. Nobody is buying pubs and I cannot see any time when they will. Even the Phythian with its controversial planning permission for a bar, shop and flats, shows no sign of work starting. In fact it is beginning to fall down now.

They are key features on every street, certainly in Kensington, although there are some in Fairfield too, and at key locations, but now they are blighting the area and taunting us because we now have even fewer community hubs.

It makes perfect sense for these pubs to be given to the community to refurbish appropriately and move into, for their various group activities.

The challenge is to find a way to make it financially viable for both parties. The pub buildings are probably of low market value although they are probably on balance sheets at much higher figures, using historical data. It would create a loss on the Profit and Loss account to write them down. But if we could persuade breweries to take this hit, and consider instead the benefits to cash-flow of not having to pay utilities or rates or insurance on the pubs, it could make sense for them to just hand them over. I certainly don't see any of these pubs being sold on the open market and I dont see a rush of new tenants willing to take on a failed pub either. I don't know how much business rates a pub pays, can anyone let me know? A guestimate will do for these Kensington pubs.

If the brewery handed a pub over to a community group, permanently, that group could then apply for funding for refurbishment work to make it fit for purpose, capital funding is much easier to get than revenue funding.

The challenge would be for the group in its new premises to become self-sustaining, because the rates, utilities, insurances and repairs - all those things the breweries are currently paying, would still have to be paid. I think perhaps at that point, an organisation in receipt of a free building and capital refurb funding would have to knuckle down to its own fundraising.

Obviously some would find it easier - a Polish club would be straightforward, presumably they would sell alcohol and would be guaranteed good custom (assuming the idea is popular within their community) so it would be a pub by any other name really.

The church could tithe its members.

But for some groups, they would need to rattle the collection tins, apply for grants, ask for sponsorship....

I am thinking seriously about approaching all the empty pub owners to ask them if they would be prepared to hand over their pubs to the community and then taking it from there. But I expect there are some obvious pitfalls I have failed to see, what do you think? Is this happening anywhere else?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fantastic news about Princes Park

See article here online in the Liverpool Daily Post. The park has been awarded Grade II* Historic Park status by English Heritage.

Another boost for Liverpool's park lovers!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

BNP March in Liverpool is OFF

I just had this email from Nick Lowles - if you have not already signed up, please do so now

Louise ----

I'm sorry to email you on a Sunday but I wanted you to be one of the first to know - the BNP have cancelled their march in Liverpool. Thanks to your support thousands of people signed our petition demanding the BNP cancelled their event. It worked - and was even mentioned in the Guardian yesterday.

This just shows what we can do together. We won this time - but we need to grow our campaign so that we can respond to the next challenge faster and stronger. Please invite your friends to join our campaign now - it'll take you less than a minute

We've won an important victory today - together we'll make sure that we can win tomorrow as well.

Please invite your friends to help us - we've seen that it really works -

Best wishes


Friday, February 20, 2009

So that's a councillor then is it?

I think today has been a microcosmic example of all that is the best about being a councillor.

Every day is NOT like today but today has been splendid and exciting and low and emotional and I want to share all of that with you.

First of all I should say that I went to bed a bit earlier last night because I had a lot on today. So instead of taking a book to bed, I took a brochure from SAVE Britain's Heritage, entitled "Triumph, Disaster and Decay: The SAVE survey of Liverpool's Heritage". The note that came with this wonderful, yet depressing publication asked me to look at page 27 where I came face to face with a photograph of the houses on Prescot Road, Fairfield. Houses that I have been so upset and in fact, truthfully, tearful about the proposed demolition of. And underneath the photo, the caption says "These houses on Prescot Road, Fairfield were mothballed by Liverpool City Council in 2000 and are now slated for demolition. "The Council has been delinquent in its failure to act" according to Councillor Louise Baldock.

Indeed, and I could say something very much more strong even than that.

So, I went to sleep in a rage, and the very early alarm woke me just after 6am. For a change I was up, showered and dressed and in Kensington by 7.10am - an hour earlier than usual, and parked up outside Lidl on Kensington. As an aside, I did pop into McDonalds for a coffee, which was as horrible as always, I don't know why I keep on trying, it is the worst coffee in the world and this time was no different.

I met Leanne from BBC Radio Merseyside in her Radio Car outside our Deane Road Jewish Cemetery at 7.10am.
And of course I could not resist telling her that Saul's girlfriend who edits our Friends newsletter is also a Leanne - and Saul said exactly the same thing when he arrived.

We did an interview which I think you can listen to here for the next week, with Leanne and Tony Snell (Snelly). Afterwards Leanne was keen to join us in the cemetery for unofficial photos and a brief tour. But even before we could scrape the early morning ice from the cemetery gates we were joined by Andy, an offical Liverpool Daily Post photographer. We were surprised to see him as we had not booked him, until he said that he was driving into work when he heard on the radio that we were in the cemetery and thought he would come and join us.

Andy, Leanne, Saul and I spent nearly half an hour having a quick tour of our historical cemetery, Saul was on top "tour" form, even though it was at least 4 hours earlier than his normal surfacing time.

I drove into work, in nearby Edge Lane, full of enthusiasm, despite having been up an hour earlier than normal.

Then I did a good morning's work before I had to leave again to go into town to officiate at a British Citizenship Ceremony. We always have them on a Sunday afternoon and lots of dignatories like to spend that time with their family so I probably fall in for more than some other people do. Anyway, the Home Office has now decided that it would like some of its staff to sit in on ceremonies, and of course they don't want to work on a Sunday so we were asked to officiate on a weekday and because we agreed, were joined by perhaps a dozen civil servants.

It was a lovely ceremony, the only slightly difficult moment for me was when I learnt that we were expecting new citizens to sing along to the national anthem, and not just stand to attention as normal. As a committed republican I cannot sing the national anthem, so I moved the flag around and then positioned myself so that I could have my back to the lovely new citizens and they need not know that I was not singing. I expect some politico out there is gong to make something of that, but they ought to hear my speech and all my references to all the best things about the city and the country before they pontificate.

Anyway, I bestowed British Citizenship on 25 new people - 15 adults and 10 children - today and I could feel some real and deep joy in the room. I have had to change my speech a bit as I used to talk about Capital of Culture which is not relevant now, but I have an interesting link through the former raison d'etre of the building as the Cotton Exchange and then to talk about slavery, the cotton trade in Jamaica and the new International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.

Then after the conclusion of the service, we took photos and then, as I was ready to go, one of the registrars showed me the comments in this week's guest book and one of those was so positive and so encouraging, that she had to find me a tissue to wipe my eyes before I could go back to work.

Which I did of course, and later today I published the latest monthly internal magazine which my colleagues all enjoyed and which gives me a real boost.

At 5.30pm I left work and drove the few hundred yards to our surgery, with Wendy, where we caught up on diary engagements and casework. She needed to go off and collect her daughter from the station at about half-six whereby I had a very useful meeting after surgery with the guys from the Liverpool Mural Project.

We have the money and the desire, but what we don't have yet is the gable-end! So if you have a gable-end in mind, for a fantastic Kensington and Fairfield historical mural, do please point it out here! We are all very passionate about delivering a historical and exciting mural in our ward.

After our meeting I came home via the supermarket and then spent 2 hours on the phone to a dear friend in Sheffield, who was letting me know about another dear friend who died yesterday.

So a day in mixed parts, some great and positive, some functional and some really upsetting, I reckon that summarises the life of a councillor.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Campaigning for the Net Generation

Interesting conference about Labour blogging for those who are interested, as emailed to me by the organiser Mark Harrison.

I'm writing to let you know about an exciting conference Progress is planning entitled Labour 2.0: campaigning for the net generation, on Saturday 28 February 2009in central London. As a Labour blogger, we thought you might take an especial interest in this event; which will bring together over 100 members of the left blogosphere, net-savvy Labour parliamentarians, councillors, organisers and others from the Labour movement who have an interest in e-campaigning and using the net to build a better democracy.

We're very excited that Joe Rospars, New Media Director of Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential Campaign, will be making the keynote speech at the conference. It will follow an opening address by Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP, Labour's general election co-ordinator. You can see the full programme below

To book your place simply visit our website:


Opening address
Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP
Secretary of State for International Development

Keynote speech
Joe Rospars
New Media Director, Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential Campaign

What will the future of internet campaigning look like?
Professor Andrew Chadwick, Director, New Political Communication Unit, Royal Holloway, University of London
Greg Jackson, Tangent
Tom Steinberg, MySociety


Mobilising the centre-left blogging community
Adam Bienkow, Tory Troll
Tom Barry, Boris Watch
Theo Blackwell, blogger and councillor
Alex Smith, writer and political activist (chair)

Fundraising and voter ID online
Gavin Shuker, Political Insight
Jag Singh, MessageSpace

Learning from the private sector
Simon Redfern
Oliver Rickman, Google

Afternoon break

Transforming LabourÕ³ campaigns and communications through new media
Nick Anstead, University of East Anglia
Matthew McGregor, UK MD, Blue State Digital
Sue Macmillan, New Media Campaigns Taskforce Leader, The Labour Party
Paul Simpson, Tangent

Close of conference debate:

Can the centre-left dominate the internet despite being in office?
James Crabtree, Senior Editor, Prospect
Derek Draper, LabourList
Rt Hon David Lammy MP
Tim Montgomerie, ConservativeHome


To book your place simply visit our website:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

10,000 reasons to love Kensington Community Wardens

Kensington's Community Wardens, employed in a joint initiative between Community 7 and Kensington Regeneration have this week reported and resolved their 10,000th environmental concern.

Some tyres left on the carpark of the Royston Arms were reported by wardens and cleaned up by the award winning Kensington Clean Team on Tuesday.

I cannot imagine how Kensington would look today had the wardens not been around to report and resolve those 10,000 "jobs". Jobs which range from graffiti, fly-tipping, alley dumping, and involve domestic waste, furniture and gas bottles amongst other things.

Tom McGuire, CE of Community 7 is known to joke that before the warden scheme began, if you wanted a sit down while you were out shopping, you could usually find an abandoned sofa on which to rest your legs.

Not any more! By contrast with neighbouring areas, like Picton, Old Swan, Anfield (and the dirty County where I was leafletting the other week), Kensington is much cleaner, and it is pretty much all down to these two teams.

Well done to you all, you have done a fantastic job and I give you my word that I will do everything I can to find a way to keep the service going when Kensington Regeneration finishes in 13 months time.

(My photo shows some of the wardens at a recent policing event in Fairfield)

Da Boyz Production

The production of this Gang Culture play will be held in Kensington on the following days:

Friday 20th Feb 1.30pm and 8.00pm Kensington Fields Community Centre

Tuesday 24th Feb 7.30pm Edge Hill Youth Club.

There is no ticket invitation, just show up to which production suits your diaries.

" a boy is dead...gunned down by rival gang members whose killer is yet to be brought to justice. Police face another wall of silence as, once again, being a grass is seen as worse than the crime itself. Then another 16 year old boy is added to the list of fatalities. His distraught mother calls out to the people in the community to come together. Maureen, a local hairdresser, joins the Mothers Against Violence Campaign that springs up. She is sick of being dictated to by what she sees as a gang of snot nosed terrorists. Then to her horror, she discovers that her own son is deeply involved and she has tough decisions to make...."

Phil Redmond and Jimmy McGovern backed production. It's a hard hitting 60 minute play which explores all sides of the fence - the victim and perpetrators and the effects of gang culture is having on young people, families and communities.

It will be followed by a facilitated discussion where experiences can be shared and all voices will be heard.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Tory Mayor for Liverpool?

David Cameron has announced today that a Tory Government would hold a referendum in Liverpool to see whether we wanted an elected mayor.
Readers will recall that currently 5% of the population have to sign up for wanting a referendum before one is held. Hence Liam Fogarty collecting names on petitions in town for the last few years.

Now what is in this idea for the Tories? Simple really, Caroline Spellman MP gave the game away on the Today programme this morning, now that more people are voting Conservative they can afford to devolve power to Tory councils. Obviously Cameron knows that it will be a long time before there is a Tory council in Liverpool - the LibDems have long since cornered the right wing vote here - but he is hoping that in a very good year, with a fair wind, the Tories just might win a mayoral election. And if they don't - well there's nothing lost, it would be the status quo.

Surely the point is that if Liam has been unable to convince the people of Liverpool to support a mayor, after all this time, that is because, in the end, we don't want one. So I have to assume that any referendum would result in a "no thanks" verdict.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Kensington Regeneration audit crisis

Today's Daily Post front page story concerns Kensington Regeneration

Liam who sits on the Audit Committee of LCC has asked for a report and a briefing for the three of us, after they were told in committee that an internal audit of Kensington Regeneration had exposed serious shortcomings in the way that contracts have been let.

I think the Post has perhaps given people the wrong impression, that corruption is afoot, which I dont think is the case, but it is true that the report said "few guarantees could be given that contracts were being managed properly". I think what they meant was that the potential for corruption exists, not that anything underhand has actually happened. But we will know more when we get our briefing.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A busy - and ultimately warm! - Thursday

I had to get up early today to be dressed and decent on the off-chance the BG engineers actually turned up at 8am to mend my boiler. They gave me a 8am-12pm slot and of course although you know very well they wont come at 8am, they just might, and you cannot in all conscience answer the door in your dressing gown. So I was downstairs, dressed in a t-shirt, two jumpers and a cardigan, a scarf, trousers, socks, leg warmers, shoes and a blanket and my coat, from 8am, reading my book on the sofa and logging on to the lap-top.

They came at about 11am - isn't it always the way?

And they mended it in about five minutes, it just needed more water into the system, isn't that always the way too?

At 12.30 I met a constituent who has been unwittingly poisoned by CO for many years by his RSL and drove him to Manchester for a medical examination with a professional that has been retained by his solicitor. I am not very familiar with the roads in Manchester so it was a good job I allowed twice as much time as we needed, because we drove up and down and round Deansgate for about half an hour!

Then I got back just a few minutes late for our monthly Phythian surgery (one of 10 we do each month) and chatted with one resident who is living in her own property, that she brought from the council, on the estate, about her potential involvement in the Decent Homes Standards plans for homes in the area who have gone over to Liverpool Mutual Homes as part of stock-transer.

Then Wendy and I had a long discussion with one of our Neighbourhood Officers who had come to join us. We discussed how we are progressing with the myriad projects and schemes we are supporting through our Working Neighbourhood Fund, one of which was a special policing operation to tackle drug dealing by a named individual at a particular address who was operating in a particular area and making his neighbours lives a misery. We had provided a lot of the intelligence.

While we were together the call came through that the door had gone in, the search was underway and some drugs had already been found and the person concerned had been arrested. Great news. Forgive my necessary vagueness. I will let you know more after he has (surely) been convicted.

We reckon to have £5k of our funds still to spend, after supporting a few dozen projects, all different kinds of thing, and I will blog seperately about how we spent our monies once the year is over. Lots of it was about activities for children and young people as well as necessary works in terms of crime, anti-social behaviour and environmental improvements.

We have about 6 weeks to spend this last part, so we are going to get our heads together to agree something really special to conclude the year.

I came home to a really warm house, stripped off about five layers and feel very human again, great!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Asylum Link Merseyside - AGM

Tonight I left my freezing cold house, where the boiler packed up on Monday, no heating and no hot water since, to go to the AGM of Asylum Link Merseyside. I had hoped for a bit of a warm while we sat, but no, they had turned their heating off at 5pm in accordance with their efficiency savings, and it was as cold there as it is here! But I did get a nice plate of chicken and rice at the end of the meeting, so that was a bonus.

The AGM went well, accounts approved, trustees approved, all that sort of thing but then we had a presentation from Ewan that he is putting together to highlight the plight of failed and therefore destitute Asylum Seekers, and then a short speech from Fr Peter Morgan about the need to provide hospitality and support to the suffering. I felt quite wiped out as I came away, just as I did after the mammoth Kensington Remembers event last month.

We all have to do more to offer support to the destitute within our midst, that is all there is to it.

Heritage Lottery Bid for Deane Road Cemetery has been submitted today!

Fans of Deane Road Jewish cemetery in Kensington will be interested to hear that I have today pressed the button to formally submit our Heritage Lottery Fund after the committee has spent nearly three years on its fundraising plans. (Interestingly it was deemed to be in Fairfield when it was built, I guess Kensington did not actually exist then)

A committee of 7 people have met monthly, and sometimes more often than that to develop our plans for this special project and we have put together what I believe to be a really top-notch first stage bid to the HLF. Everyone has played their part, writing different bits, organising the supporting paperwork - and even a special DVD - and we have now bid for £220,000 of funds which if we are successful will see a total restoration of our beloved cemetery.

I am also delighted to tell you that we now have five wonderful patrons who have agreed to support the project, tell their influential friends about it and generally get behind the plans to restore Deane Road Jewish Cemetery. They are Rex Makin, Freeman of the city of Liverpool (Jewish), Dame Lorna Muirhead DBE, DL, SRN, SCM, MTD, CStJ, Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside (not Jewish), Miriam Margolyes OBE, famous actress (Jewish), Rt Hon Jane Kennedy MP within whose constituency the cemetery falls (not Jewish) and Louise Ellman MP, Liverpool Riverside (Jewish).

We are thrilled that they have responded positively to our invitation to become patrons.

If you would like a PDF copy of our bid, I will be happy to send it to you by email.

Thanks so much for everyone who is standing with us. Please start sending positive thoughts towards the HLF people, that they might look favourably upon our bid for funds.

Some publicity we have received since I posted this
Jewish Chronicle
Jewish Telegraph
Liverpool Echo
And more can be seen at the Deane Road Cemetery publicity page

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

I had a letter in the post yesterday, from a firm of solicitors. It said "Dear Councillor Baldock" and was referenced "Defamation Services" and a feeling of dread swept over me.

It turned out to be a letter from Kirwan's in Water Street who have set up a political unit apparently, so large must be the demand from Merseyside politicians who are apparently defaming each other left, right and centre. They were merely alerting me to their services and one would hope they had written to lots of councillors, not just me, so that was okay after all.

But I was interested in the feeling of dread, what had brought that on?

Obviously my first gut reaction to the letter was that someone wanted to sue me.

Have I got a guilty conscience? No, I don't think so. I have not of course lived a blameless life, who of us has? Youthful indiscretions, sexual peccadilloes, few of us are entirely innocent. But I find that I often feel dread.

It is probably similar to something the police often experience, when they meet
perfectly innocent people who start going red in the face and shuffling about as though they are about to be found out - or head teachers calling pupils to their studies for the most benign of reasons.

I think it is something to do with being in the public eye, and in politics in particular there is a increased likelihood that one's opposition will find and create reasons to damange that public persona. So I live my life waiting for "the other shoe to drop". I have discussed this with other politicians and some do feel the same. When a journalist phones to ask for your views about a local issue perhaps, you wait for the opening sentence, you wait to hear the tone of the voice before you can decide if this is a harmless call or not. I have got over my fear of the police, because I talk to them every day and am very comfortable with them.

But I cannot shake off that feeling that I am going to be renounced and it does not seem to matter that I have not actually done anything!

I thought I might share that with you, I would be interested in any feedback

Kensington, Liverpool, a violent crime hot-spot?

The Liverpool Echo carried a double page spread earlier this week exposing details of a police report showing that Kensington is in the top 5 of violent crime hot-spots across Merseyside. Even worse, it tells us "The area is named-and-shamed as having more murders and attempted murders and a bigger gun problem than the other four – Liverpool city centre, Anfield, Toxteth and Birkenhead."

There is clearly very much work to be done. The paper contained a long statement from the three of us, detailing some of that work that is being undertaken.

I am going to spend some serious time thinking about this. We have a very good handle on burglary, on anti-social behaviour, on car crime and so on, but the area is still suffering from violent crime.

Two things strike me from reading the article; the first is that the majority of the violent crimes are being committed by criminals who know their victims personally and in some cases it is members of the criminal fraternity falling out with one another. That kind of crime is going to prove very difficult to tackle and it is a problem in other parts of the country too, Belfast for instance and Manchester. Some of the solution must lie in removing weapons from criminals. The more we can get guns and knives away from violent people, the less likely they are to use them.

The other thing that strikes me is the large number of the cases quoted in the newspaper that were committed on Kensington Fields. The Fields is not actually in our ward, it is part of Central ward, although that is a nuance I would not expect either the public or the newspapers to know about or care about. It is of course all "Kensington" and shares the same police force and other partners and agencies, as the rest of Kensington, irrespective of which ward it is in. The Fields was also the place where the 11 lads lived who were given ASBOs in mass action in 2005. And it was the Fields where one particular Chinese Cigarette factory was uncovered.

And yet the Fields is now a conservation area, an attractive looking Victorian housing estate where although there is a fluctuating student population, there are also families who have lived there for 50 years.

Why should all this activity be happening there? I suspect it will turn out to be a one-man or two-man crime wave, someone who happens to live there.

I know that on the Molyneux and in the Holt Road area we had the most enormous upswing in burglaries in 2007/8 and we bucked all the trends. It eventually transpired that all the burglaries, hundreds of them, were carried out by one lad and a few of his mates, and once he had gone into prison, our rates dropped right back down in line with everywhere else.

So if the police catch the man they are currently searching for, who they believe shot at least three of the people featured in the newspaper and who they know well, will our rate of violent crime drop too?

There must be a middle way though, between terror and fear that violence stalks our streets, and a complacency that the criminals are only committing violence against each other and if you are not a criminal then you will be safe. There must be action on the part of the community against violent crime, not just action by the police. People in Kensington need to find a way to get over the fear of recriminations and feel able to give intelligence to the police about who the criminals are and more importantly where they are. And I think Councillors have a role there to receive, anonymise and pass on informtion to the police, on behalf of residents, so that we can make progress while keeping people safe.

It is a very thorny issue and the figures show we are a long way from resolving it yet but we are all very willing. Do read our statement which is on page 3 of the newspaper article.

What do you think residents, councillors, police, partners, agencies, courts etc can do to reduce levels of violent crime?

Scrutiny Panel looking at OBV shadowing scheme

It must be a month or so now since I suggested as the Deputy Chair of Overview and Scrutiny Select Committee that we should have our own scrutiny panels and that as a suggestion, one of them should be about the OBV scheme.

It took me a fortnight to persuade the Chair, Cllr Sidorczuk to agree with me, but he did in the end, and Cllr Erica Kemp and I met with Council Officers earlier this week to discuss what our work plan might look like.

We made really good progress and I am really looking forward to the scrutiny work. If you have been a mentor, a mentee or an officer involved in this process then we welcome your input, and if you were on the outside looking in but still have a view, that would be great too, email me, thanks

What do I think about HMRI in Liverpool?

Imagine this, a nice bloke named Duncan from Inner City Solutions actually wanted to interview me to find out my views on HMRI in Liverpool. It was just as well he had a very big space in his diary because I was there for over 2 hours (and he comes from Thornaby so we wasted 10 minutes on the delights of Westbury Street where we had both lived - more or less like Molyneux Road really).

Anyway, I gave the HMRI project some bouquets and a whole lot more brickbats and it was really helpful in crytallising my thoughts over this project.

I took with me a copy of Inside Housing from a few weeks ago where the front page, shamefully, was a photo of boarded up houses in Anfield and a copy of the article in the Echo about the demolition of Prescot Road and Drive houses. I also showed him soem of the material from the HRMI scrutiny panel in 2007 and the HMRI task and finish group I set up as part of the City and North Neighbourhood Partnership Working Group for Physical Regeneration in October/November 2008.

What I said in essence was that it was a great idea, badly mismanaged and ultimately sabotaged by changes in the housing market. I look forward to reading his report.

Saturday night out on the town, getting my head turned by the bright lights

Lisa and I had a night out on the town on Saturday night.

We were meant to get the same bus into town together, but it arrived literally 30 seconds before me at the bus stop and I saw her red coat in a downstairs seat as I put my finger tips on the back of the bus and it drove off. Grrrr

We met up in the Phil for a first drink and then went into the Everyman and the Casa before coming home to the Richmond (I think you'll find it's my pub, LOL). We had a great chat and I think I may have told her things that I have managed to get through 43 years without telling a soul, but then we have been bezzie mates for 31 of those years so if I was ever going to 'fess up, she was bound to be the one to hear the stories.

We had a really great evening and I enjoyed going somewhere different for a change.

Far more snowy behind the ears than he had ever been before

I was reminded on Sunday afternoon of a Winnie the Pooh illustration, a copy of which an old lover bought me some 17 years ago. A drawing of Winnie and Tigger struggling through a snowy landscape, the caption read "Feeling more snowy behind the ears than he had ever been before" or words to that effect.

Liam and I were out door knocking for the 3rd Sunday running as part of Labour's campaign to ensure a resounding victory in Liverpool Wavertree whenever the General Election comes. We drove up to the patch we had decided to visit. We parked at the end of the street. We got out our clip-board and our out-cards and our pen. We walked up to the first front door and Liam lifted his hand to knock on the first door. And at that precise moment the first snow flake fell.

I was wearing my ubiquitous purple John Lennon/Donny Osmond cap (I guess it depends on your cultural references) but Liam was bare-headed. As we pushed on up the street he became very "snowy behind the ears" and we were glad when a couple of families invited us in for deeper conversations. We made a new member too, so it was very successful, but we might have to count the cost in chilblains!

Deputy Chair at your service

Saturday was a very interesting development in my political career.

Having been a full-time officer (then entitled Regional Officer, now the position would be described as Deputy Regional Director) for the Labour Party in the North West of England 10 years ago, I can remember going to my first LPNW AGM.

I can also remember 14 years ago, going to the same type of meeting as an ordinary member delegated to represent Cleveland county on the North East and Yorkshire Regional Labour Party Committee - actually if I really remember it properly, I think I might have been a member of the North Committee in 1994 and then the Yorkshire Committee in 1995 and having to give them both up when I started work for the party in April 1995, but I might have this a bit muddled. I certainly remember a meeting in Gateshead and a meeting in York any way.

As of Saturday I am the new Deputy Chair of the North West Regional Labour Party, which I guess means it has taken me 10 years to move from number 2 (which I shared with Sheila and Peter)on the staff to number 2 politico.

I have already decided that once a month I need to go to LP Regional office in Warrington and discuss our campaign plans and direction in terms of fundraising and recruitment and so on, with the Regional Director. So if you are reading this and have views about how this position might best be utilised, do please email me at louise dot baldock at blueyonder dot co dot uk

Essentially though I intend to use the position to extend my work campaigning with and training members across the region. Get in touch!

- masses of thanks must go to Theresa Griffin who is number 3 on the NW European Election list this year and has gracefully stood down from her Deputy Chair position to concentrate on becoming the Griffin we DO want to send to Brussels in June.

Cake at Merseyside Polonia

Wendy and I went along to this month's Merseyside Polonia first Friday (last Friday of every month) at St Francis of Assisi Academy. We councillors have managed most months and this month only Liam was working and had to send his apologies. It was finally our turn to jump up on stage, joining the community and locally produced advice and instruction sessions, explaining what a local government councillor is and what we do.

Gosia, who leads the project and who is charming, gorgeous and delightful and puts us all to shame with her bilinguality, translated our short contribution into Polish and turned dreary discussion of bins, dog muck, lamp-posts, housing needs and housing benefit into something that sounded much more sexy. It was, as always, great to spend some time with old pals like Steve and Sheila, Siddi, Anthony, Simon, Chris and lots of others. (residents, police, RSLs etc)

Our Merseyside Polonia night is becoming a key part in our social calendar! Lovely stew this month, lovely beans and cake!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

As One - Kensington Anti Social Behaviour Working Group

We had a really good As One meeting last week.

Our main focus was on a young man, youth worker turned actor, who is now running a firm called N2R. He has offered to put on a play/drama/workshop for our young people (aged 13+) to engage with them about the difficulties and problems caused by underage drinking, drugs and sex. He is working primarily from his own personal experiences as he nearly died at a young age of alcohol poisoning. We have hopefully now engaged him to produce one session at the St Francis of Assisi Academy and if it goes well we can push that out to our youth clubs and other feeder secondary schools. Councillors have agreed to pay £350 from their Working Neighbourhoods Budget to fund a session at the school to get the ball rolling.
Watch this space too.

Thursday morning Councillor's Surgery in the Library in Kensington

An interesting surgery last week, I had three different visitors, I wont say too much about that, but one was a regular visitor who is my eyes and ears in the community, one was a regular visitor who has been poisoned by Carbon Monoxide and is looking for some justice - I have been seeing him for over 2 years now, and my third visitor was someone who wanted to talk to me about how the new developments on Gilead Street was affecting him and his neighbours in nearby Minto Close.

And when I had finished my surgery I had a long discussion with some union members who had chosen to be there, about the proposed changes in library hours due to LibDem budget proposals. Very interesting it was and I came away with lots of questions to ask about how the closure of certain sessions in Childwall, Walton and Garston (Cressington) might affect the users.

You may or may not know that I was our school's Chief Librarian (and still have the badge) before I began my working career (more or less) as a Library Assistant and have a City and Guilds Certificate as a Library and Information Assistant's Certificate. So I am more than passionate about this.

More on this later.

Kensington - Neighbourhood Services Task Group

(I should just say that I am typing this on my laptop and the speed in which my typing appears is so much faster than the council laptop that I feel even a person with a 100wpw rate would not be able to keep up. I feel very special to have access to such a fast system. (I bought it 4 years ago for under £400, and it is masses better than my laptop from the council which has cost the tax payer £6600 so far, what does that say about my campaign against LDL?)

Anyway, all those things being equal - including the necessity for me to keep going back and correct spelling mistakes my finger are not normally allowed to make - I should say this was a meeting much less difficult than the previous three (we meet once a month).

For 18 months Pat has been raising the problem of the wheely bins that belong to the flats next to her home on Holland Street. And for all that time we have been trying to resolve this. But we have failed and failed and failed and so last month I promised to involve Paul Morrison, our LCC Neighbourhood Manager in its resolution. And I was absolutely thrilled when he agreed to meet me on site and then come along to the meeting to talk about enforcement processes that he wanted to instigate. I think we might finally be able to experience some progress, but it might take another 4-6 weeks before we will know whether our section 46 notices are likely to be effective.

What this means is that we are threatening the residents of the flats with prosecution if they do not take out and bring back in their wheely bins.

If only for Pat's sake, I hope this is going to work, she is truly tearing her hair out over this.

State of the City Debate

Well I went, even despite the last time I went through this, I thought I should give of my best.

And I thought I should invite my OBV shadow councillor Caroline too, just in case it was useful. She left half-way through, because she said she had a Christian Prayer Group to go to, but five minutes before that she was very anticipatory about the soon to be revealed buffet, so I am not entirely convinced. I suspect she just thought it was terribly tedious!

I went into the first plenary, listened to four speakers, who were okay if I am honest but it was dark and I kept nearly nodding off, which was embarassing. I dont think it was because they were all tedious, I certainly hope it was not, but I could hardly keep my eyes open. Perhaps that was because I had been working hard all weekend? Who knows?

Then we went into workshops - I chose community safety - and we talked about how we could do more and how we could more cleverly in the face of a credit crunch to improve the situation for our residents. I thought we made some good points, especially a young black man named Addi (I think) who I thought I ought to have recruited to the Labour Party except that he rushed out of the workshop as soon as we broke up and I didn't spot him again. But I didn't hear anything new and I wonder what if any difference any of us made, even despite having the Chief Executive himself facilitating our session

Then we went back into a final plenary.

I did enjoy meeting new people but I did not hear any new views. We might need to make this very much more imaginative next time, but at least Warren had listened to me and found some women to join the front bench after last time's mysogynist efforts!

Did you go? What did you make of it?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Reading the comments that readers have left

Some of my loyal readers have told me that they do not know how to read any comments that others have left, and are not aware either of how they might themselves leave a comment.

Please let me advise you!

Let us take the entry immediately underneath this one, named "And the Standards Board lets the third councillor off "

If you go to the foot of this entry you will see something that looks like this

"Posted by Louise Baldock at 12:20 AM 4 comments Links to this post
Thursday, February 05, 2009"

If you were to click on the bit that says "4 comments" it will take you to a new window which shows the comments that others have made.

Then if you got to the foot of that posting in the new box, you will see that you can leave a message and then are asked to choose an identity.

I prefer my respondents to give their names, and if they have their own website or blog to give that address too, but if you wish to use a made-up name or to be anonymous you can do that too - just like the Wavertree Parliamentary Constituent LibDem Councillors like to do.

It is quite easy really, and if you have a blog of your own, you can say so, like Scouseboy does for instance and connect the two blogs together.

You will see on my blog that I get a lot of pro LibDem comments who prefer to be anonymous because they are cowardly and sometimes I get comments (although when I think about, I rarely agree to publish them) from a guy in Croxteth who is defending a family member.

My favourite reponses always come from those with the courage and the balls to name themselves.

What do you think?

And the Standards Board lets the third councillor off

I am somewhat speechless really

Three councillors reported to the Standards Board of England (not by me, I should point out)

All LibDems

All representing Wavertree ward, Liverpool, where I live

One for being found guilty of an offence against the Representation of the People Act and two for getting together, at home, with a drink, with an officer of the council who was at that time taking the authority to a tribunal for constructive dismissal if I recall correctly, and asking him to help them to get another officer sacked.

And none of them have been held responsible for their actions by the Standards Board of England, set up following the Nolan review into Standards in Public Life.

Apparently, according to the Daily Post and Echo, the Standards Board have said that "Cllr Bradley had on one occasion been "unwise and possibly naive", and his conduct "occasionally suggested lack of good judgement" in the wake of the Mathew Street Festival cancellation in 2007.

But it concluded he had not acted maliciously and said no further action should be taken into allegations he had bullied another person, failed to treat others with respect, and brought his office or authority into disrepute."

The report itself, according to the Post says "While some of Councillor Bradley’s actions could be said to have damaged his personal reputation, for conduct to be disreputable to a member’s office or authority there must, in the ethical standards officer’s view, generally be some additional element pointing to a lapse in standards, such as an improper motive, unlawfulness, the hope of personal gain or gratuitously offensive behaviour."

I wonder what you have to do in order for the Standards Board to look unfavourably upon you?

It seems that delivering leaflets accusing an opposition councillor of being a secret lap-dancer and calling her husband a scab (and forgetting the imprint!! practically a treasonable offence when LibDems are reporting me to the Elections Office for cocking up my imprint last year) is not worth the attention of the Standards Board.

And now neither is bullying a senior council officer out of office, resulting in having to pay him a reported massive £230,000 to keep the matter out of the courts after he complained about said bullying, asking other officers to help to get rid of him, and meeting an officer for a drink and a chat, who was concurrently taking the council to a tribunal are not problems either.

(written in a personal capacity as a tax payer of Liverpool city council - and absolutely without malicious intent!! Any critical comments will be published as long as they are not gratuitously rude)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Urban First Aid for Kensington children and young people (Liverpool)

I was invited onto City Talk Radio tonight to talk about the ground-breaking project in my ward to teach children and young people about urban first aid.

Seven nurses from the Liverpool Royal Hospital have teamed up with the British Red Cross Society to offer what they are calling urban first aid to our kids.

They will learn how to tackle knife wounds and gun shot wounds, and also how to help their mates who are very drunk and have collapsed, so that they can do their bit befor paramedics arrive.

Obviously this scheme has its critics, there are those people out there who want to deny that such things happen and dont want our kids to learn what to do because this will damage their innocence. And because it should not be necessary.

On the other hand, supporters like me would say that while we hope our kids never need to apply those skills, it can only be to their benefit to be pre-warned and prepared should they find themselves in the situation of having to help friends or neighbours or indeed strangers that are injured in this way or have had far too much to drink.

Rhys Jones was with his pals when he was shot, Joseph Lappin was with his pals when he was stabbed and Anthony Walker was with his pals when he was violently attacked. Michael Causer, according to the ongoing court case, was with his friends when he was attacked, and he was taken outside and left on the pavement.

I have no idea whether any it would have made any difference in any of these cases if the pals had known what to do, but it might have, or if not, then it might have on other occasions with other young people.

What is obvious to me is that our kids can only benefit from knowing how to manage wounds - whether deliberate or accidental - you could fall on a fence post or railing for instance and need urgent care before the ambulance arrives.

And they all need to know what to do if a mate becomes insensible with drink, we all know that happens!

I also said on the radio that this is not a slur on Kensington, it is simply that the nurses live in Kensington and want to offer their skills to their own community first. If it is successful then they want to roll that out across the city.

I know that Richard and Ibrahim, whom I have met and talked to about this project, are very genuine in their desire to help young people and I think this is a ground-breaking, innovative project, typical of the way that we as a community tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in Kensington.

I took soundings from members of the As One steering group (tackling anti-social behaviour and finding youth diversionary activities in Kensington) this afternoon at our meeting before I went on to the radio and they were all very supportive. Residents, Police, LASBU, C7 wardens Kensington Regeneration Community Officers, LCC staff, RSLs, Business Crime Direct, Youth workers and all the other partners and agencies thought it was a great idea and are really behind it.

Sergeant Simon Joyce particularly asked me to stress that Kensington has seen a 28% reduction in crime over the last 3 years and that it is now the safest place to live in North Liverpool.

What do you think about this project?

Bob Dylan to support the Co-op during Corrie

Facebook message from Paul Murphy of Manchester Co-operative Party

Great news!

Co-op Bob Dylan advert to take over entire Coronation Street ad break (from the Daily Mirror)

Music legend Bob Dylan is to fill an entire commercial break in Coronation Street.

The Co-op has chosen the ITV1 soap to launch its new £10million advertising campaign featuring the folk poet's 60s protest song Blowin' in the Wind.

The two-and-a-half minute commercial will be shown for the first time a week on Monday - February 16 - and the anthem for change is the first work Dylan has allowed to be used in a television ad.

If you want to join the Co-op Party contact me, Louise Baldock, Secretary, Liverpool Co-operative Party, thanks (link to Co-op Party in my links to the left)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

LibDem Lollipop U-turn

Liberal Democrats in Liverpool have bowed to pressure from Labour councillors, schools, parents, governors and children and scrapped plans to cut the school crossing patrol service.

This is of course great news

However, in a staggering sleight of hand, the LibDems are now trying to suggest that the plans and proposals came from Liverpool City Council officers (staff) not them, and they are only reflecting public views by rejecting the scrapping of 25 lollipop ladies and men.

Now make no mistake, they have ALREADY VOTED IN FAVOUR OF THESE MEASURES - last Wednesday, they all put their hands up for this.

Are we all absolutely clear what this means?

The Liberal Democrat administration is supposed to run this council. Leader Warren Bradley and his cabinet of Executive Members are elected to provide the strategic direction for all local government policy. They should be making clear their political priorities and then asking the officers to do whatever is necessary to implement them. They are not supposed to be buffeted by the actions of officers, they are not supposed to be caught on the hop by something.

They should not sitting back and letting officers take decisions.

If we wanted to be run by civil servants then we would not need elections at all.

I cannot believe that all 46 Liberal Democrats turned up in the council chamber last week to vote for a budget that they had not read properly. I cannot believe that they had not discussed the implications of a cut to Lollipop services with each other before they came into the meeting. I cannot believe that they had not asked questions of the relevant council staff and made sure they were in agreement with the proposals before putting their hands up to vote.

I also cannot believe that they sat and listened to us arguing passionately against this cut yet were still prepared to vote for something that obviously was very controversial – but which they now say they did not really know anything about and had not themselves proposed. They ignored our amendment and forced through the vote in favour of their own proposals.

If this is true, then they are blind sheep, who go into the chamber, stick their hand up when their leader tells them to, and we may as well get rid of the lot of them.

If this is true then they have no political compass and are utterly inept and drifting

If this is true then it is a massive dereliction of duty and a national scandal.

The alternative however is not to believe a word of it. They were perfectly clear on the detail, they were perfectly clear about which crossings were at threat and at what times of day, and Councillor Flo Clucas had gone on TV to defend these plans in the days leading up to the budget vote. She cannot now say that she did all that without understanding what the cuts meant.

So what we are left with is the image of a council totally lacking in political understanding, totally at odds with its people. Bankrupt financially and bankrupt of ideas. A council where the elected politicians could not see that scrapping school crossing patrols would be a step too far for the residents.

(And if the raging arguments about introducing car-parking charges in the city centre between 6pm and 8pm are anything to go by, they are out of step with Liverpool businesses too. Expect another u-turn any day now)