Thursday, April 30, 2009

Massive police operation nets 99% of drug dealers in Kensington and Fairfield

I have just come back from police HQ in Liverpool where I was briefed at 6.00am along with 200 officers and then watched from the control room as 30 front doors were put in across Kensington and Fairfield. A massive operation, costing £200,000, which has been running for two years under cover, amassing evidence against local drug dealers and has seen 99% of them removed from our streets in one go. RESULT!

Liam, Wendy and I, representatives from Community 7 Housing, Venture Housing and Kensington Regeneration were invited by Chief Inspector Dave Charnock and his team to join the briefing and watch as the operation developed.

We are absolutely delighted that all of the information and intelligence that residents have been passing forward to the police, either directly, through the Community Safety Task Force or Your Community Matters meetings, or through us or by ringing crimestoppers has played such a key part in evidence gathering.

Local people have shown that by standing up for themselves and their community, by saying that "Enough is Enough", our streets are safer today.

There will be much more information and photos to follow.

Edit: I took this photo on my way back to Kensington, of two vans parked up near properties they had just burst into. I have had a long report from the police this afternoon but need to agree what I can share and what I cannot. Keep watching.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fylde Borough Council have already announced the results of the next General Election in their area

You heard it here first

Fylde Borough Council have announced on their website that the next MP for Fylde will be Mark Menzies, a 37 year old from Leeds who works in marketing for Morrisons.

But don't take my word for it, have a look at the link where the council says

"In the next general election the Rt. Hon Michael Jack MP will be retiring. The following is a press release about the new Fylde MP."

My mate Liam who is cutting his teeth in this particular election has always known he was a rank outsider, but you would think the organisation wherein sits the Returning Officer (I assume), might try to be a little less cocksure.

Still, when they are prepared to go on to say "Fylde has been represented by a Conservative MP for more than 60 years." I guess the game is pretty much up really. Perhaps they shoudl save the tax-payers from unnecessary expense and the bother of voting and just declare Fylde Tory for the next 60 years too?

Ironically they say here that "The local Council does not endorse any political group".

I know I am making light of this, but actually, it is pretty poor, wouldn't you say?
So on further reflection I have made an official complaint with my LP regional hat on.

Deane Road Cemetery - DVD!

At last week's Deane Road Jewish Cemetery committee meeting, we got to see our wonderful DVD for the first time.

It made me tearful, I dont know why, ridiculous really, but I just felt very positive about it, and that our project to restore the cemetery suddenly looked real. I know that sounds strange, of course it is real, and we have been working on it for several years, but seeing it all on a DVD and particularly the section that talks about David Lewis was stunning.

Michael Swerdlow who has done an excellent job putting it altogether, now only has a few tiny tweaks to do and hopefully we can get it loaded up on to our website and also share it with the HLF people while they deliberate funding the work.

There were a couple of sections that really made me laugh, staged stuff mainly, where I can remember the filming. One part where Muriel, our horticulturalist was exclaiming over some good news we had had, and one part where Saul and Arnold were talking about the gravestone of Charles Mozley.

Hopefully you will be able to see it all for yourself soon, watch this space.

Churches Together Easter Service

Last Sunday, at the end of a special week of churches working together that I told you about here, we had a cross-congregational service at Kensington Junior School.

It was very moving and also very funny. Some of the church members performed a really fantastic puppet show, about the lost lamb - you probably had to be there, but there was Baa-baa-baa-ram and also an adaptation of a Beatles song which now completely escapes me. The puppet show has been round the schools in the area and all the kids have thoroughly enjoyed it. We heard from the volunteers who had been doing acts of random kindness throughout the week in the area, tidying up gardens for the elderly, knocking on doors to ask if people wanted them to pray for anything special (an interesting twist on what I ask when I knock) and spending time with different community groups. They had also taken on some casework, helping a family of Romanians who needed to go back home.

There was a really lovely feeling of community during the service and I came out feeling really empowered. Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to make the week a success.

Reverend Andrew Porter has now begun a four month sabbatical and I would like to wish him well with that. I am sure the time will fly by!

Involving schools in our British Citizenship Ceremonies

I wrote to all the Liverpool schools just before Easter, asking if they would like to get involved in our citizenship ceremonies, and Pat, the Superintendent Registrar in Liverpool, tells me she has already had interest from at least two of them. This is really great news, hopefully I will be able to tell you more about that once we have worked a programme up with them.

I suggested they could host a ceremony in their school, or send their choir to sing for the new citizens in the Register office, or perhaps read some poetry, whatever they thought appropriate. It is important that we broaden the involvement of the community in the ceremonies.

Last week I presented naturalisation certifates to two families from Kensington, amongst those gathered, I wonder if there will be any local people at the next one, next week? It is wonderful to be part of something so special in people's lives. I know that all the councillors who act as dignatories at the services get such a lot out of them.

The Co-operators are co-operating

Last weekend Stephen Twigg and I went to the inaugural meeting of the North West North Co-operative Party council, which is the result of a merge of two party councils that were both covering our region. We also have the Greater Manchester Party Council.

Anyway, enough of the bureaucracy, what about the co-operating?

The interesting thing was afterwards. We had a celebratory dinner and I sat next to Louise Ellman MP. I took the opportunity to talk to her about her time as leader of Lancashire County Council and in particular how she had incorporated co-operative policies and ideals into their work.

We were talking particularly about economic development and enterprise, and she was telling me about a unit she set up to help establish business co-ops. Indeed a man came to our table to talk to her at one point, who had set up one such co-op many years ago as a result. It sounds really fascinating, I want to learn more about it in case it is something we can do in Liverpool.

The other thing we discussed was credit unions. Apparently Lancs CC had its own, may well still have for all I know. I was wondering whether Liverpool CC has one, I need to find out. I think it would be really marvellous to be able to offer membership of a credit union, and to allow transaction, via a one-stop-shop. So that evening after the dinner I contacted a personal friend of mine who works in the OSS in town to discuss this. He says there would be a few issues, mainly because we dont take cash on the OSSs. We would potentially have to pay securicor (or whoever) to come round all the OSSs every day, or pay for overnight security measures, safes etc. And that would also require, potentially, a big insurance premium. And as credit unions are non-profit making, I dont know where the money would come from to fund all that.

So it looks as though, for such an idea to get off the ground, transactions would have to be done by debit card. I dont know whether credit unions usually take cash - I am assuming that they do, but obviously I need to find that out, because if they function okay with debit cards, or perhaps postal orders? then it might still be a viable idea. This friend also thought there might be a LCC credit union, called Partners(I think he said), because he said he saved up for his season ticket with them one year. But I don't know if it is still running, nor whether it is open for all residents of Liverpool.

Maybe if there is already something in place, it could be extended to the OSSs so that we can make it more accessible to people. At difficult financial times, like those we are now in, people need to be kept out of the clutches of loan sharks. Our existing credit unions, like Edge Hill for instance, do a great job, but they don't have universal coverage (as far as I know) and they dont have an advertising budget.

LCC could promote a credit union through its existing communication streams without being a burden on the public purse.

Thoughts anyone?

(There is a photo of us at the dinner but I dont know how to get it out of the word document it has been embedded in, by the kind man who sent it to me. I shall add it later when I have resolved this)

KVFM 87.7 test transmission

Wendy, Liam and I have just done our test transmission for our two radio shows on the wonderful KVFM 87.7

I think it will be repeated this tea-time about 5.30pm, something like that, if you want to hear us getting into the swing and talking about the guests we will be having on our shows.

We are going out live on May 1st, International Labour Day at 4pm - 6pm and again on May 7th, same time.

We will be broadcasting from the glass box inside McDonalds restaurant on Kensington and you are free to come and wave to us through the window if you want!

Our guests include our MP, Jane Kennedy, our police team, our LCC neighbourhood officers, youth workers, our good friend Josie Crawford from Sheil Park residents association and the Duke of Kensington himself, Siddi Majubah.

I am really looking forward to it, although it felt a bit weird today, doing the test transmission without Carl's steady hand and comforting presence. We did have his photo on the wall next to us though, so he was looking down and watching us and making sure we didn't go wrong.

Tune in, "We're on your side"

Final Merseyside Polonia

Email from Gosia - and do come, it is your last chance to attend this great event

It’s our final Merseyside Polonia event from the series Meet Your Neighbours when we can look back and be proud of what we developed together – new friendships, more access to local services, interest in Polish cinema and taste for Polish food – I guess you could add few more things. It will be time to share our experience and we would like each person to bring something that they like to eat to share with others. There will be a chance to chat about future plans and invite you to our next event.

Dear Friends

We would like to invite you for the next Merseyside Polonia event that will take place on 1st May 2009. It will start at 6.30 pm (end by 9 pm) at the Academy of St. Francis of Assisi (by Newsham Park), Gardner’s Drive, Liverpool L6 7UR. The events are free, open to everybody and will be translated in English and Polish.

During the event we will have some information regarding local services as well as presentation about Poland and of course some delicious food. We will have a chat about the future – what the Polish community would like to do and what other Polish events the local community would like to see in the future.

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

See you at the next event

Best wishes

Gosia McKane and Merseyside Polonia team

To nasze ostatnie spotkanie z serii Poznaj Swoich Przyjaciół, które będzie okazją
na spojrzenie wstecz i poczucie dumy z tego, co razem stworzyliśmy – nowe przyjaźnie, lepszy dostęp do lokalnych usług, zainteresowaniem polskim kinem i
smak na polską kuchnię – jestem pewna, że moglibyście dodać jeszcze więcej. Na spotkaniu chcielibyśmy podziękować za Wasz wkład i pokazać krótki film nagrany podczas poprzednich spotkań. Będzie to czas dzielenia się doświadczeniami z projektu i chcielibyśmy, aby każdy przysiósł coś do jedzenia - coś co lubi, aby podzielić się z innymi. Będzie też szansa, aby porozmawiać o planach na przyszłość I zaprosić na kolejne spotkanie.

Drodzy Przyjaciele,

Chcielibyśmy Was zaprosić na kolejne ze spotkań Merseyside Polonia, które odbędzie się 1 maj 2009 r. Rozpoczynamy o godz. 18.30 (koniec przewidziany na godz. 21.00) w Academy of St. Francis of Assisi (przy Newsham Park), Gardner’s Drive, Liverpool, L6 7UR. Wstęp bezpłatny, spotkanie otwarte dla wszystkich i tłumaczone na język polski i angielski.

Podczas spotkania podamy informacje dotyczące służb lokalnych, jak również zobaczycie prezentacje o Polsce oraz będziecie mogli spróbować tradycyjnych przysmaków. Porozmawiamy o tym, co polska społeczność chciałaby zorganizować w Liverpool w przyszłości oraz jakie inne inicjatywy oraz spotkania lokalna społeczność chciałaby zobaczyć.

Celem Merseyside Polonia jest stworzenie pozytywnych relacji pomiędzy polską społeczością a lokalnymi mieszkańcami poprzez prezentacje na temat Polski, jej kultury, informacji związanych z życiem w Anglii oraz kreacji nowych inicjatyw.

Do zobaczenia na nastepnym spotkaniu.


Gosia McKane i zaspół Merseyside Polonia

Carbon Monoxide summer campaign

I am currently working with Lynn Griffiths, the President of Carbon Monoxide Awareness (and who lives in nearby Runcorn) and with Fred Pye from Liverpool City Council on the city's next campaign.

We have decided to run a summer campaign, alerting families to the need to take portable CO detectors with them, when they go on holiday. Fred has been in touch with Rapid and it looks like they will once again discount their alarms for the period of the campaign so that we can get the maximum number out there. They are really good supporters of the campaign. I will let you know more about the plans as we develop them.

We have also agreed that Manchester will be the provincial city where we celebrate the final day of this year's National Awareness Week in November. I have been in touch with colleagues over there on the Labour group to get the ball rolling.

We have been meeting in the Mansion House in Calderstones Park, and those magnolia trees are simply equisite at the moment! Do go and see them.

Alice's Naming Day

Alice, our sunshine girl, has now been officially "named". She had a lovely ceremony with party in York, on a beautiful sunny day. As with her brother Dylan, I am one of Alice's "supporting adults" which I guess is like being a god-parent, but without the God part. I made a number of promises to be there for her as she grows up.

I have told Susan that we missed a few out though, I should have promised to be on Alice's side when she brings home a totally unsuitable boyfriend with long hair, tattoos and a motor bike, and again when she has the argument over getting her ears pierced.

Alice looked beautiful in her new dress bought specially for the occasion, but you will have to take my word for that as I don't have a photograph of her from the day so I thought you might like this one of her on the swings. Edit - I found this lovely photo on my phone today, which I had forgotten taking.

She behaved brilliantly well all day, smiling and sucking her thumb and waving her hand over her subjects. I cuddled her for ages, nobody else had much of a look in, I can tell you!

Unfortunately, both she and Dylan have since succumbed to chicken pox and Alice has been quite poorly, but thankfully she is getting better now and at least they have got it out of the way. I don't appear to have caught it though, thankfully.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Maintaining standards

I want to thank all the many people who have supported me over the last 24 hours, phoning and sending texts and emails, and posting positive comments on this and other blogs. I have been overwhelmed with how kind people have been and how generous with their support and encouragement at such a difficult time.

Seeing yourself splashed over the papers in a negative story is very painful, as I expect you can imagine and it would have been impossible to handle without the support I have received.

But what concerns me is not the damage to my reputation (I can live with people criticising me for swearing and I have said much worse in my time), it is the damage to our cross-party work in Ethical Governance.

I have worked really hard this year with Councillor Paula Keaveney the LibDem Executive Member for Ethical Governance (who I want to thank for her inclusive approach on this), with the councillors and independents on the Standards Committee -and particularly the chair, Howard Winik, who does a great job for our city. LibDem Cllr Stuart Monckom and I worked on a paper together in his home where he made me very welcome, and I have been meeting fortnightly with a small working group made up of officers and councillors (Cllrs Keaveney, Moore, Eldridge, Mullen and Williams), with the monitoring officer and the deputy monitoring officer, to work on improving the behaviour of councillors and the relationships between councillors and officers.

I think together we have done some really great work and it is my sincerest hope that our efforts are not in vain. I also think we have broken down some barriers between the political parties and proved that we can work together for the common good if we try.

It is a bitter irony therefore that the negative comments I made two years ago about all LibDems and all Liberals have now come back to haunt me. Actually, some of them are okay!

It is obvious that under the circumstances, particularly given the damning editorial in yesterday's Echo, my continuing with the Ethical Governance brief could potentially damage that good work. I would be horrified if our planned presentation to Annual Council about the values we want everyone to embrace, could now be held up to any kind of scorn or ridicule on my account. I don't want the Echo to find anything else to criticise our council standards for.

I am infuriated that a description used by a sitting Tory Prime Minister about his own cabinet is okay for him but deemed unacceptable when I say it, but we are where we are. 

So, with great sadness I have decided to stand down from the Ethical Governance Portfolio and from the Standards Committee.

And where better to make that announcement than on this blog?

As to where that leaves blogging politicians, I really don't know, perhaps I will start a separate entry about that next week and see if we can get a sensible debate going.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Those of you with a sharp eye will have seen that I have been contacted by the Standards people following a complaint made against me by Councillor Steve Radford last month.

Because the complaint has not been investigated by the Standards Board (or the Standards Committee) I have not been shown a copy of the complaint and thus do not know the detail of it. However, from what I can glean from the decision letter that tells me they are taking no action over the complaint, it would seem to relate to light hearted comments* made several years ago on my website. I am not clear why Councillor Radford has chosen to raise this now, two years after the event.

*I understand that the offending comments were those where I referred to Liberal Democrats and Liberals as "opportunistic b*****ds".

And of course I apologise to anyone who took offence although I would remind readers that they are free to comment on any post - and in fact 13 people did so on the one in question. It is a shame that I am to be pilloried for using a word that a serving Prime Minister, John Major, thought appropriate for his own cabinet.

I think these may be the ones that have upset Steve - although don't forget I have not seen his letter so cannot be sure.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Carl Speare RIP

I have just received a really shocking phone call from Steve Faragher.

Our friend Carl Speare of Likely Alliance died earlier this evening, playing sport.

He was a fit and well and healthy man, so full of energy and vigour and passion that I feel as though some sort of mistake must have been made.

For those of you who are thinking his name rings a bell, but cannot quite place him, Carl is the man behind Likely Alliance, the people who work with Kensington Vision to bring community radio to Liverpool neighbourhoods. I can think of a station he created at Alt Valley, another in Belle Vale and of course our fantastic KVFM back in November 2007.

KVFM starts again next week here in Kensington, or at least it was doing, until tonight. But it is too early to think about the impact of Carl's death on our project. Tonight I just want to think about Carl and what a lovely man he was and how much he will be missed and how many thousands of lives he has touched.

Edit: Thanks very much to Sheila McCoy for sending a really lovely picture of Carl that I am now able to illustrate this entry with.

Wendy and I relied totally on Carl to make our last radio station slot successful, he helped us put everything together and was endlessly patient with us, and extremely professional. I have several DVDs of Carl, explaining some of his different projects, one of which, about Belle Vale radio, I only watched last week after Steve sent it to me for information.

Carl Speare was a really wonderful man, totally committed and dedicated to the communities that make up Liverpool and his loss will be felt deeply and painfully across the whole city.

We owe him a huge debt of thanks in Kensington and I am sure the other communities he has engaged in will feel exactly the same.

If KVFM does go ahead this month, I am sure we will want to dedicate the whole three week programme to him. A really lovely bloke, my most sincere condolencs and best wishes go out to his wife and children, and to his friends and colleagues.

Further news: KVFM will be going ahead as planned next week, we are all very grateful to those former and existing members of Likely Alliance and Kensington Vision who have agreed to do what they can to step into the breach and ensure the radio station can go ahead. We shall have a special show to talk about Carl, which is likely to be the final one. I will give more details of this when I have them.

We are opening a book of remembrance and condolence at McDonalds over the weekend if anyone wants to come and sign it so we can share it with Carl's friends and family.

Abi Speare confirms in her comment that the funeral is to be held on Thursday 30th April 12.30 at St Anne's Church, Prescot Road (Old Swan), then on to Springwood and back to Mount Charmal.

Newsham Park Lottery Bid - FAILED!

I don't think it is any exaggeration to say that I was gutted when I found out last week that Liverpool City Council had failed in its bid for £3million of Heritage Lottery Funds for our 140 year old Newsham Park.

I guess I was disappointed and depressed but also sanguine about it, when I thought it was because the HLF was oversubscribed by a factor of 6:1. There being £120million of bids for parks, against a pot of £20million.

However we have since learnt that the HLF say it was because the LCC bid was under-developed.

This is disgraceful!

Fairfield residents have been working on plans for park improvements for 30 years - yes really, that long. They have been involved in meetings, discussions, plans and drawings, prioritising and selecting since at least 1980.

And yet our LibDem council has submitted under-developed plans we are told - how can this be? They managed to put in good plans for Sefton Park and Princes Park, obviously, why not for Newsham Park, given the weight and depth of work that has gone in here over all those years.

And what on earth are we supposed to do now? From where else can such huge funding come?

A total and absolute let-down!

Kensington and Fairfield police team newsletter

I should have linked to this before, but here is the latest newsletter from our excellent police. What they are perhaps constrained from saying in their newsletter, but I am not, is that the projects to fight ASB in Molyneux Road and to fight the prostitution problem on Sheil Road has come from our Labour Councillors' devolved Working Neighbourhood Funds - and we asked them, they did not ask us.
Great example of us all working together on the people's priorities.

Researchers and participants required for LGB&T in the North West


The North West Development Agency and partners have commissioned ECOTEC, an independent research and consulting organisation to undertake a research project to look at the views and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in relation to employment, business and enterprise, education, and health. This work will help to inform the Agency’s work on understanding the needs of everyone in the region and ensuring they have access to the same opportunities. They are looking for members of the LGB&T communities to tell them about their experiences.

Researchers - ECOTEC are looking for 15 people aged 18 and above from the LGBT community to work as researchers to carry out interviews with Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Trans people in the North West. They are particularly keen to include a diverse pool of community researchers and seek to recruit from BME communities, disabled people, men, women, older people and trans communities.

If you would like to work on this project as a researcher they would like to hear from you. The work will involve you carrying out individual interviews and focus groups with people from the LGBT community.

Ideally you will have experience in interviewing – this need not have been in a research context. They are more concerned with your ability to be sensitive to the issues which LGBT people can face. Full training for the project will be provided. Researchers will be paid a fee per completed interview/focus group amounting to approximately £120 per day.

Community researchers role in the project is expected to take 4-5 working days in total. The work will take place between April and June 2009. The research study as a whole will conclude in July 2009 with a final report to the NWDA. You will be able to undertake the interviews at times which are convenient to you and the interviewees.

Participants - Diversity within the region’s LGBT community is recognised and ECOTEC are particularly keen to hear the views of BME communities, women, men, disabled people, older people and trans people. Participants will be asked to take part in face to face interviews or focus groups, which will relate to work and employment, business and enterprise, education, and health issues, looking at the issues arising and opportunities that exist. ECOTEC would like to hear from LGBT people aged 18 and over, from all across the North West region. The research will be completely confidential and you will not be identified within the results.

Your views will provide important information to help improve the economic opportunities and support available for LGBT people in the region.

If you would like to take part in this research, either in an individual interview or in a focus group, you will receive £20 cash as a thank you for taking part. The research will take place in May-June and will be carried out by a trained researcher from the LGBT community (see above).

If you are interested in either of these opportunities or would like more information please contact:

Nicola Hall
Project Manager
ECOTEC Research and Consulting Ltd
Vincent House, Quay Place, 92-93 Edward Street
Birmingham B1 2RA
Tel : 0121 212 8879
Email Nicola.Hall @ (removing the spaces)

Jackie Fox
Project Researcher
ECOTEC Research and Consulting Ltd
31-32 Park Row
Tel : 0113 290 4109
Email Jackie.Fox @ (removing the spaces)

Summary of judgement in case of Councillor Steve Hurst



The first three paragraphs outlined the nature of the appeal and the broad background of the May 2007 Council Elections. They give the sections of the Representation of the People Act 1983 which the court had to consider. The two issues being a) whether it had been proved that Mr Hurst was responsible for distributing the leaflet in question to houses on the Woodlands Estate (Belle Vale), and if so proved, b) whether the leaflet offends against Section 110 of the Act.

Para 4.

‘Stephen Hurst was a Liberal Democrat councillor and Chief Whip. It is alleged that on the 2nd May 2007 he was distributing offensive/derogatory leaflets about Mr and Mrs Walton which purported to come from The United Socialist Party and did not contain details of the printer/publisher. The respondents say this was a tactical ploy in the sense that by attacking the character of Mrs Walton and her husband he was trying to dissuade people from voting for the Labour Party who were the main opposition. In fact the leaflet says “Vote TUSP”, and the respondents say the leaflet was also intended to turn people against that party with the result that they would ultimately vote Liberal Democrat. If the respondents are right then any right thinking person would agree that this is an unscrupulous and devious form of electioneering.’

Judge Brown then outlined the evidence in detail for a further 14 paragraphs, and in paragraph 8 stated that ‘the court is mindful that Mr Hurst is of impeccable character in that he has no previous convictions, has worked for the Fire Service for 25 years and has served as a local councillor. The court has been provided with evidence of his many qualities and attributes and it is very important that in coming to our decision we give considerable weight to his good character.’

Mr Hurst told the court he had found the leaflets and had them in his hand when he was involved in a scuffle with Mr Walton and his sons. He reported that incident to the police on the evening of 2nd May 2007 but the police log shows he did not report finding the offensive leaflets before that, nor did he mention them on 26th May when he provided a witness statement. Judge Brown said ‘Not to mention finding the leaflets both on the 2nd May and then some three weeks later when he had time to think about it is in our judgement very surprising.”

He continued later; ‘We have carefully considered mr Hurst’s evidence and have at the front of our minds the fact that the respondents must prove the matter so that we are sure but in our judgement it stretches the bounds of credibility that Mr Hurst just happened to find the offensive leaflets and had them in his hand when at the same time someone else wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses and a t-shirt was delivering these leaflets on the same estate ….’

‘In these circumstances we are sure that Mr Hurst was the person distributing the offensive leaflets and the second question is whether the leaflets offend Section 110 of the Act.’

The Judge then quoted from the case of DPP v Luft and DPP V Duffield (1977) A.C. 962 which is a decision of the House of Lords. He quoted directly from Lord Diplock in some detail and included from page 983 of his judgement as follows:-

“My Lords, where there are more than two candidates for a constituency, to persuade electors not to vote for one of those candidates in order to prevent his being elected must have the effect of improving the collective prospects of success of the other candidates though it may be uncertain which one of them may benefit most. So in anyone sophisticated enough politically to want to intermeddle in a parliamentary election at all, an intention to prevent the election of one candidate will involve also an intention to improve the chances of success of the remaining candidate if there is only one, or of the other of the remaining candidates if there is more than one, although the person so intending may be indifferent as to which one will be successful.”

In conclusion Judge Brown said, ‘Here the intention was to manipulate the electorate by getting them not to vote for the Labour candidate on the principle that ‘mud sticks’ and to get them not to vote for the TUSP on the basis that they would find the use of these tactics offensive. Therefore in this clever and devious way the purpose was to get them to support one of the other party’s and we heard that was the Liberal Democrats. This was a very close election and as the Chief Whip of the Liberal Democrats on Merseyside this sort of conduct by Mr Hurst brings considerable discredit on his party and local politicians in general. At a time when politicians are under the spotlight for their probity this was dirty tactics of the worst kind and in our judgement a very serious matter. We have no hesitation in concluding that the leaflet offends against Section 110 of the Act and we are satisfied the appeal against conviction should be dismissed.’

Friday, April 17, 2009

Search Engine Optimisation

Warning: A techie posting

I have been doing some SEO work over the last year on my firm's website, to get it up the rankings on Google. I am not bothering with Yahoo because you have to pay to submit your site to them, if it is commercial.

We are doing pretty well by and large, I have thought of all sorts of combination of terms that people might use if they were looking for a firm that offered the services we do (words including accountant, accountants, accounting, liverpool, merseyside) and then done my best to ensure that our firm is high up on the results for all those possibilities by manipulating my text, my key words in the meta data, my page titles etc.

However, I am curious that if I search for Liverpool Accountancy, my firm's website appears on the 17th page, which is a shockingly bad result (although we do very well on the Google map of local business results which is the first returned item.)

However, if I search for Accountancy Liverpool we are nearly at the top of the first page.

This is a huge discrepancy.

I have not used quotation marks in my search.

Obviously I want to optimise our results for both searches, I cannot dictate what people will type into Google so I need to change our site so that it responds well to their search term choices instead.

Does anyone have first of all an explanation as to why there is such a discrepancy over such a simple search, and secondly, what could I do about this?

Thanks guys and gals

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Editing workshop

Hannah Pierce, a student of Fine Art at JMU, has also been in touch to say

"There is the opportunity for residents to attend an editing workshop that I've organised at the new John Moores Art and Design Academy to assist in the editing of the documention of the event before it goes online. I haven't got a date set for it yet as I need to know the numbers first, but anyone is welcome to come if you would like to put an open invitation up via your blog?

It will be an introduction to video editing software in the new Mac suite followed by one-to-one instruction, I am hoping that this will encourage LJMUs outreach into local communities and provide new opportunities for residents and young people who would like to give it a try."

I confess, I dont know whether she means the documentation of the hotpot event or the edible playground event, or quite which event they would like to edit, I shall ask. Again, if you want to get involved, please do come to the KFCC on 23rd or contact me for Hannah's details. Thanks

- edit, Hannah says of the skills training "It's the documentation of the evening on thursday that the editing workshop will be based around although hopefully there will be more opportunities for similar workshops in the future - no previous experience is necessary"

Discuss the identity of Kensington at an informal event

I have been contacted by Hannah Pierce who has organised an informal event in Kensington Fields Community Centre on April 23rd at 6.30pm to discuss the identify of the area.

Hannah says

"I am a third year Fine Art student at John Moores University living in Kensington and the community evening is part of a series of artist led community events I am currently working on to establish more positive relations between students and residents in the area."

This is a hotpot social to which everyone is invited, where we will talk about what gives Kensington its character etc.

She also says

"Alongside the Hotpot social I am currently working to establish an 'Edible Playgrounds' initiative, which at the moment is in the process of getting funding: we plan to take students into primary schools and helping them to build an edible playground area with the children - growing their own vegetables, teaching them how to upkeep vegetable gardens and how to use the produce to make healthy meals. I am hoping that we will be able to do this with a Kensington school but this is all dependant on which schools are willing to take part.

Any feedback on the projects would be happily received"

If you want to know more about the Edible Playgrounds initiative, come along on the 23rd and talk to Hannah, or email me and I will give you her contact details.

A special moment at Number 10

Anna Rothery sent me this wonderful photo, and the caption read as follows

"This is the most powerful photo in the series. Remember they are not supposed to shake hands, but the two brothers couldn't resist the historic moment. The black royal cop never imagined in his wildest dream that he would usher a black American president into the British corridors of power. Nice."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hillsborough Commemoration Service - Kensington

I have just come away from a commemoration service for the 96 mainly young people who died in the Leppings Lane end of the Sheffield Hillsborough ground, 20 years ago today.

It was held at Kensington Fields Community Centre, and was introduced by Paul Nicholson. Most of the service was however conducted by the junior and infant school children of Sacred Heart school.

A short service, they sang "The Fields of Anfield Road" and "You'll never walk alone". Each child read out a prayer they had written to remember the dead, then they read out the names and ages of the 96. I was struck again by how young most victims were; so many aged between 16 and 25 in particular. What a tragic waste, to think of these young people who, if they had lived would have been about my age. That really brought it into focus for me.

Bobby Parry read out a poem he had written and we had a minute's silence.

As we left, the children handed out 96 glittering hand-made stars, each one containing the name of one of the 96, that we were asked to think about and perhaps pray for during the course of the day. My prayers and thoughts will be with the friends and family of Christopher James Traynor.

A very moving service, made more so by the fact that the dead were being remembered by children, children who were not alive 20 years ago but took the time to commemorate the event.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tory smear tactics

I have been following the row over the plans of a number 10 advisor and one Dolly Draper to publish gossip, rumour and innuendo about a few Tories on a planned new blog called Red Rag. Leaked emails detailing some of the potential gossip have caused much upset to many people, we are told.

I am not in any way defending their actions, but I am vaguely reminded of a story that was doing the rounds about 10 - 15 years ago, can anyone help me to think where I might have read about this? As I recall it was alleged that the Tories were tailing Gordon Brown and I seem to recall a particular allegation that they had been looking in his dustbins, because they thought he was gay and wanted to catch him out, ideally with a young lover. I also have an even more vague recollection that this may have involved the Tory Whips Office. Although this latter might be mixed up in my mind with something completely different I read in Brandreth's diary.

It would be interesting to find out whether I have dreamt all this or whether there was ever such a rumour (of trailing GB, not of his sexuality) and what came of it, if anything.

Pots and kettles are obviously coming to my mind so it would be useful to get a handle on this.

Please ensure that any responses you make to this post use the appropriate language to distinguish between fact and allegation - unless you are reporting the outcomes of public trials etc.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Easter Egg madness - make the most of it

I popped into Summerfield at Picton clock tonight and I saw a very puzzling but very good offer on Easter eggs that I feel duty bound to share with you.

One good size egg for £3

Two good size eggs for £6

Three good size eggs for £5

Yes, not a misprint, if you take a third egg you actually pay £1 less, in total, than you would pay for taking only two eggs.

So, I bought three eggs, for the price of less than two...

And furthermore, these particular eggs contain considerably less packaging this year - and no plastic - greener eggs, someone is listening.

So you can go green, and get a free egg and £1 back in your pocket.

I am sure they have made a mistake, either that or they have too many eggs and they now want to pay us £1 to take an extra one off their hands. But whatever this bizarre offer is all about, get out quick and get yours before someone cottons on to this choccy bonanza!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

LibDem Councillor Steve Hurst, Liverpool, loses his appeal

There are times in this world when one would be well-advised to take the punishment gracefully.

When Councillor Steve Hurst (Lib-Dem, Wavertree, Liverpool) was convicted for offences under the Representation of the People Act, for distributing deeply unpleasant, libellous and personalised attack leaflets, under the duplicitous name of another party, he should have taken his punishment on the chin.

Instead he insisted on appealing to a higher court and his party and his leader insisted on holding his seat on the cabinet in Liverpool City Council open for him, pending such an appeal.

Today the council leader is facing a reshuffle, despite his hopes and prayers. Councillor Hurst's appeal was slapped down.

So, the case has been heard today at Liverpool Crown Court. Not only did they uphold the original findings, but the judge went on to say "not only have you brought discredit to your party, but you have also brought discredit to all politicians" or words to that effect. And "This was dirty tactics of the worst kind".

It will be properly covered in tomorrow's papers and you can check what they reported the Judge as having said. My quotes come from someone in the viewing gallery.

I live in Wavertree ward in Liverpool and I expect better from my representatives.

It is shameful to us who live here, to have a man like this representing us. I call upon him here today to resign and allow a byelection whereby we the people of Wavertree ward can vote for a new, ethically clean and decent representative to stand up for us in the council chamber.

A Thank You note that came today from our leader

Dear Louise,

Much was written and said over the weekend about the G20 summit and so today I wanted to send an email to a group of people who have had little praise so far - you and tens of thousands of other Labour Party members.

Here in Britain, it is only through the tireless efforts of Labour members like you that this country has a Party in Government willing to give people real support during the tough times. We are introducing a £145 tax cut starting today for 22 million basic rate taxpayers. We are introducing help with mortgage payments for homeowners if they lose their jobs. And we are investing in support and training for those who become unemployed.

We are acting at home - but this is a global crisis which requires a global solution. Your hard work has ensured that this country has a Party in Government that understands that we are part of a world community. Last Thursday's summit was the day that the world came together to fight back against the global recession - not with words, but with a plan for global recovery and for reform and with a clear timetable for its delivery.

At home and across the world, we should be proud that the values we share are ensuring help for people during times of need and laying the foundations for us all to emerge from this downturn quicker and stronger.

We will stand by those who lose their homes or jobs - not walk on by. I am determined that families will not be left behind like they were in previous recessions.

We all became members of this Party because we wanted to make a difference. I want to thank you for the contribution you made at this historic moment.


P.S. - Please forward this email on to 5 of your friends to let them know the difference that Labour values are making to Britain and the world now.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Easter week in Kensington and Fairfield

Taken from email from Rev Andrew Porter;(edited to correct date of Sunday service)

Celebrate Easter" is something that many of the churches across Kensington are involved in. We have had a very successful week in schools last week in conjunction with "Y Kids" from Bootle taking assemblies and running workshops on Anti-bullying, puppets, rap, image and the consequences of decisions we make. Starting Easter Tuesday we will be involved in various things across the wider Kensington, Edgehill and Fairfield community culminating in a celebration service at Kensington School, Brae Street, at 4pm on Sunday 19th April. Below are the things we are doing, you would be welcome to pop in to anything. During the week we will be delivering 7,000 Easter cards with the information below inside.

Tea Dance

A Tea Dance at Kensington Methodist Church on Tuesday 14th 2-4pm come and join us.

God’s Kitchen (grub not club) 12-2pm

Come and join us for Lunch.

St. Michael’s, West Derby Road, Sunday 12th (12.45pm)

Pentecost/Cottenham Baptist, Coleridge Street, Tuesday 14th

Kensington Methodist, Kensington, Wednesday 15th

St. Michael’s West Derby Road Thursday 16th

St. Philip’s, Sheil Road, Friday 17th

St. Michael’s, West Derby Road, Sunday 19th (12.45pm)

Celebration Service.

Come and join the celebration. Sunday 19th April at 4pm in Kensington Primary School, Brae Street.

Acts of Random Kindness (ARK’s)

During the week we will be undertaking “Acts of random kindness” for people across the area. Look out for us.

Family Time

For parents with their preschool and nursery children. Tuesday 14th 9.30 -11.30am at St. Philip’s Sheil Road.

St. Mary’s Tower

See the view from St. Mary’s Tower, Towerlands Street. Trips up the tower 2-5pm Friday 17th.

“God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them!” John 3:16-17 CEV


Friday, April 03, 2009

Happy Easter to Gerard

Another wonderful card from Gerard arrived today, this time wishing me a happy Easter. Our photograph emerging from an easter egg with the message "Wishing you a cracking Easter Louise". I cannot compete so will instead send a card from the workshops of L'Arche in Fairfield - which are not only good value but also fantastically good art work, in my view. Happy Easter Gerard, I hope you get lots of chocolate!

A real community with a real community spirit

Being a councillor can be an intensely frustrating experience. You can battle for years against intransigence, a lack of finance, a lack of imagination and a lack of commitment from those who are in a position to effect the change that is needed. Sometimes I get despondent and wonder whether we are making enough difference, despite most councillors working many long hours each week on behalf of their constituents. Sometimes I wonder if it is really worth it, if I would not be better going into social work, or the church, or voluntary activity in just one aspect of need, rather than the tough job of community leadership, which can feel virtually impossible at times.

But then the clouds shift and everything is seen in a very different light.

Over the last few weeks I have been to lots of different community events, some social, some civic and some for ward business. And in each of those events I have seen a real coming together of our community. Kensington and Fairfield is buzzing with activity and so many people now are part of it.

The International Food Festival held in Kensington primary school really warmed me, it was fantastic to see people from Africa, India, Pakistan, Poland, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Russia, Romania, Trinidad, Iraq, Iran, Kurdistan, Jamaica and heaven knows where else, all mixing together, with their children. The kids were all dancing together in front of the stage, waving their balloons with their faces painted by our wonderful United Colours of Kensington multi-cultural face painting troup. The parents were chatting together over bowls of food from all corners of the earth and we were being entertained by the Congolese choir from the Bethlehem church opposite Kensington library, by Tarib, the Kurd musician and by local singers (and there were others that I was not there for the peformances of). And how great that at least two of the OBV graduates were there too, enjoying community engagement.

And two weeks before that I was in the same school for the International Women's Day celebrations with a different set of Mums and children from all over Kensington and all over the world.

There was the opening of the new swimming baths at St Anne's which I now realise I have forgotten to blog about (that was on Wednesday, more of that to follow then I guess) which although outside the ward, had still attracted residents from the ward who are part of the board of Kensington Regeneration who had helped hugely with the funding of the revamp.

And tonight we had the Merseyside Polonia celebrations I have already blogged about. Last week we had the African Business Forum, and the week before that, also in the Police club, we had the Congolese Association's social event.

We have had our highly successful Your Community Matters meetings and of course our Community Safety Task Group, our Neighbourhood Services Task Group and Putting Neighbourhoods First. And then we have our Neighbourhood Assemblies and our TRAs and always we can count on the police being there, the C7 wardens being there, people like Steve Faragher of Kensington Vision (in a bit of bother over some of his April Fool jokes in the latest Kensington Voice magazine), Gosia and George from Yellow House, Healing Space, HEAT, RSL staff.... I could go on.

What I am trying to say, rather clumsily, is that Kensington and Fairfield is really coming together around the central point of community engagement. The tentacles extend and more people are drawn in, and the opportunities for us all to be together and to celebrate our community are increasing and are ever more successful.

When you can feel, as I did on Saturday at the International Food Festival, that Kensington and Fairfield is becoming more integrated and more appreciative of each other, as we all become on first name terms with each other, then you can believe that Thatcher's efforts to destroy the concept of society have completely failed.

Tonight I looked across the room to where our fantastic, newly promoted Chief Inspector Dave Charnock was eating cake and clapping along to Polish music, close to the organiser of the Polish Saturday School, who sat near to Matthieu and Petronelle from Africa who had come to offer their support, who were on the next table to some disadvantaged young people from Yellow House, who were taking photos of local Liverpool residents engaging with visitors from Bootle who had come to join in the fun. And do you know what? I felt great, just because I cannot make everything happen straight away, just because some cases are very hard to resolve, it does not mean that our efforts to bring our deprived community together are in vain.

I would be amazed if there is another ward in Liverpool, if indeed there is another ward in the country, that has come together quite as much as ours has in the last half-year. I cannot truly say why that is, but it has much to do with the quality of the individual people I have described. There is not an agency or a publicly funded organisation within our ward that is not fully engaged with local people and not a one that does not go the extra mile, I think that is what is making the difference, the enthusiasm felt right across the public and voluntary service spectrum for real engagement and involvement.

So tonight I am feeling good about our work, thank you Kensington and Fairfield!

Another wonderful Merseyside Polonia event tonight

I really enjoyed tonight's Merseyside Polonia, it was good fun. We had some very interesting presentations - each last only a few minutes but give all manner of organisations and agencies the chance to explain the services they offer or the ways in which they wish to engage with the Polish communities.

We heard first from the youth team recruiters at Everton FC. They are looking for young children from the Polish community in Kensington, boys and girls, to come and play football and be brought on through the club. The presenter said that it cost them money to pay for Polish players to come to Everton from the country, but if they could "grow" their own talent on the streets of Liverpool then they could save money and increase the number of local players at the club. Apparently there is a little boy or little girl out there in Kensington right now who could be the next Wayne Rooney - if that is not too controversial a statement for me to make!

Then there was a guy from Social Services who is looking at how they can encourage people from new communities to engage with day care services and a Polish speaker who is working with HMRI to study the housing tenure of the different community groups.

Liam and I sat with Steve and Sheila, and had some lovely Polish food - a fantastic sausage and egg soup, imagine such a thing, fantastic, I could eat it every Saturday morning before leafletting, no bother. And cake!

And Gosia had invited a Polish/English second generation singing group from Manchester who gave us some good old Polish tunes and had us swaying along.

Gosia McKane, the organiser, explained that Easter is a really big deal in Poland, as important as Christmas, so there was Easter fayre and beautiful painted eggs and traditional decorations for us to admire. She had painted a special egg, just for me, with my name on, which I hope to show you a photo of in due course, and I was really pleased. She is so lovely, beautiful, smart, intelligent, charming and gentle, in fact I want to be her, but will settle for being pleased to have become her friend since we have been working together.

Last month is the final event in this cycle, and they have been really successful, everyone mixing together and enjoying breaking down those barriers. We need to get together to talk about how we can extend the project into the next municipal year.

Merseyside African Business Forum

On Monday I was speaking at the inauguration of the Merseyside African Business Forum in the Police Club in Fairfield. Liam and I were there, Wendy sent her apologies, because we had partly funded the establishment of this important group from our Working Neighbourhoods Fund.

It is vital to the success of our economy that people are in work, and if there are no jobs for you - and if you think it is hard to get a job in Liverpool, imagine how much harder it is if you are black and English is not your first language - then you need to think very seriously about setting up in business and employing yourself. And of course a successful business can go on to employ others, which is also vital to our economy. I believe hugely in encouraging business start-ups which is one of the main reasons why I am an active member of Dream High.

It is also true that over 25% of the population of Kensington and Fairfield comes from the BME/BRM community and a big proportion of those are Africans, so it was a no-brainer to support an African business forum with a base in our ward.

Anthony Madume is the project co-ordinator and we will be working with him to ensure that new and existing businesses with African owners and managers are given all the support they need with business planning, advice over planning, change of use, business rates, PAYE, VAT, whatever it might be to get them over any barriers to success. We know from research that a lot of African businesses fail, we have lots of African shops in Kensington and Fairfield but they often don't last very long, so we do need to help them to be successful.

I was delighted to meet Dr Matan who is a real VIP in the Merseyside African business world. And also to hear a speech from Professor Tunde Zack Williams who I first heard at the AGM of the Liverpool African Association when he spoke convincingly about the need for BME/BRM people to put themselves forward for public office.

I do hope this project is a real success.

- we also enjoyed some lovely African food and my third taste of cassava in a week - for those of you who were counting. There is a photo but we might have to wait a while to see it.

Damned United

Colin and I went to see Damned United on Tuesday night, it was fantastic!

The story of Brian Clough's football career and in particular his stormy relationship with Don Revy and obsession with Leeds United. It is fantastically well acted, with top actors, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent. It was utterly fascinating and if it is a true story then it staggers me to think that one man allowed such an obsession to rule his life, yet still managed to be an exceptional manager, not just at one club but at several - although sadly not the Damned (Leeds) United club of the title.

His arrogance and ego and complete lack of tact were startling, but also very funny, there was a lot of laughing in the cinema although probably most of it was mine (we went to the very nice new Odeon in Liverpool One, I can definitely recommend it).

When asked by a TV reporter how he felt about being described as the best manager in the First Division, Clough reportedly responded by saying "I am not the best manager in the First Division, but I am in the top one."

Fantastic example of male bonding, I particularly relished the scene where Peter Tayor (Timothy Spall) had Clough (Michael Sheen) grovelling on his knees in apology, to the point where Clough was obliged to say "Take me back baby, I am nothing without you" (or words to that effect).

The only slight disappointment was the poor Teesside accents - but then nobody ever really knows how to do that properly, unless they are actually natives.

Some extracts from this week's diary

On Thursday I had a surgery - two cases this week, but neither of them mine, one a man from Kensington Fields who naturally would think that a surgery being held in Kensington Library covered his area, and another was a worker within the library who lives in Picton.

The LB Taxi Service was pressed back into action on Thursday lunchtime, I picked up a jubilant Stan from JLA this time, and he didn't seem to have lost anything either. We had a bowl of soup together before I sent him back home to Huddersfield, with a big hug and the request that he should come back soon, but preferably not with a requirement that saw me getting out of bed at 4.45am, twice!

I rushed off to St Michael's RC Primary School on Guion Street/Boaler Street/West Derby Road to see if we could make any progress with our plans to close their dirty smelly underpass (used by druggies and kids sitting off and vagrants) and get a surface crossing instead. We have the Head of Neighbourhood Services on board, the Head of Community Safety, the Head Teacher, the kids, the parents and the governors and we all know what we want, but it will really be a question of where we find the £250,000 to make it happen. In the meantime we are going to improve the lighting and security and increase the cleaning regime further, using our Working Neighbourhood Funds.

Fitting in a bit of socialising with my council work in March

I became an airport taxi-operator last week, for my mate Stan from Huddersfield. He came to stay on Friday night and we had a lovely meal in the Millon on Allerton Road. Then I took him to JLA on Saturday morning at the crack of dawn to catch a plane to Belfast to watch his beloved Polska play the Northern Ireland FA national team in the world cup qualifiers - they lost.

While Stan was mourning the defeat of his team and worrying about the sporadic violence that was springing up around the city, I was at the Kensington International Food Festival organised by Kensington Regeneration but in particular by Maria Barrington from Healing Space. This was the second opportunity for me to eat cassava in a week. It was a wonderful event, when I arrived I learnt that Steve Radford had been earlier, invited by Natalie Nicholas who was shadowing him on the OBV scheme and also Gerard from County who was delighted to have such a great event to take his grandchildren to. He had picked up on the event from seeing it on my blog. There must have been about 200 men, women and little children there when I got there, about half way through the event, having been leafletting in the morning in Anfield and then out for brunch with Stephen Twigg and Nick and Kev, (that reminds me Kev, I owe you £10, dont forget to get it off me), and then having gone out looking for a nice gift for Lisa's birthday. They were from all round the world, for sure and the children were all playing together and dancing together and the mums and dads were eating together, foods from 9 different nations. Actually I only had a tiny bit, to show willing, as I had just eaten.

On Saturday night I babysat for Lisa and John so that they could go out for Lisa's birthday, and I watched Brokeback Mountain on TV. Marvellous film. I always wanted to see it but had never managed it before, I really thoroughly enjoyed it.

I picked Stan back up from JLA on Sunday morning, grubby and tired and fed-up because he had lost his precious scarf, and sent him off for a sleep while I went to a special citizenship ceremony in the town hall, where Lord and Lady Goldsmith and the Lord and Lady Mayoress were both in attendance. The photo shows me with the two couples. It was extra special because two of my constituents were receiving their citizenship certificates. I also found myself sitting at one point next to a man from Kurdistan who knows Tarib, the marvellous musician who performed at the Kensington Remembrance event in January. Lord Goldsmith, in conjunction with Tony Dalton from the Home Office who I sat next to during the ceremony, developed David Blunkett's idea for citizenship ceremonies in the first place which is why they were both there and one had been asked to act as the dignatory for the occasion. I am going to see Tony Dalton, who is the Chief Caseworker in the Home Office in his office in Liverpool soon to talk about potential further revisions to the ceremony.

When I got home after the ceremony Stan had got up so we went for Sunday lunch with Colin to the Carvery in the Half-Way on Woolton Road and then I took Stan to see the Iron Men on Crosby Beach. I found out this week that my bosses, whom I always think of as I go up there, knowing they live somewhere close by, actually live practically on the beach just where I park, so next time I shall pop in for a cup of coffee with them! We had checked the time tables and the tide was well out when we got there, so we got some great photos of the setting winter sun on the wet sand. Fantastic.

Stan went back to Huddersfield about 8pm on Sunday but not for long. He was back on Monday night so that Louise Baldock Airport Taxi Service could run him back to JLA at 5.30am on Tuesday morning - he was this time going to Poland to see Polska playing St Marino - and what a score line that was. 10-nil with a further 2 disallowed, the first goal scored in less than a minute.

On Wednesday night I had two meetings, Operation Black Vote Scrutiny Panel newly set up, including Erica Kemp in the chair, me, Anna Rothery, Pam Clein and Steve Radford. That should be really interesting, finding out how effective was the work we did as mentees and mentors. I am looking forward to it.

Then I went on to the City and North Neighbourhood Partnership Group for Physical Regeneration, which has to be the committee with the longest name of those I sit on, surely. I chair this particular meeting and it was very interesting to be talking about planning guidelines for what might or might not be allowed to be built in the defined water front area known as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

We had a good discussion and agreed as a committee that we would support all the proposed guidance about restricting the height of buildings in the pier head area for instance, and the quality of design should be paramount etc, but we did not agree that there should be many restrictions on the development of Stanley Docks as it is a horrible mess that contributes nothing to the city and nothing, particularly to its Kirkdale and Everton neighbours, whilst at the same time there are developers with deep pockets at hand to bring on change and economic development and enhancement.

And just to prove I was out there hustling for the ward, here is some more stuff I did in March

GEARS environmental improvements - I had a walkabout with the project manager and the chair of GEARS residents to look at some of the environmental improvement work in their neighbourhood, being funded by Kensington Regeneration through a controversial contract with Acorn. Each house agreed to some or all or none of the following works, new walls, new railings, new gates, new paintwork, new tiling to the step and front and all were also given a block paved "door mat" just outside their gate. Unfortunately some of the work has not been carried out properly and we are having to ask the contractor to do it again. No doubt there will be more on this.

Kensington Regeneration Board meeting last week was very difficult, I had spent three hours reading the paperwork before the meeting, particularly the final year's delivery plan - 2009/2010. Last year I "called in" the delivery plan when it came to LCC Exec Board because ward councillors had not been properly consulted on it, and there was uproar because the call-in time scale might threaten some of the projects, so I was forced to withdraw my call-in. (A "call in" is essentially a temporary halt to any proceedings concerning an item so that you have time to read it, ask any questions and clarify any understandings and issues before it recommences through the system.) This year I thought I would be better prepared and so I scrutinised the report in advance of the meeting (despite it only coming 24 hours before the meeting meaning I was up until after midnight) and came forward with about 40 questions. I figured this would be too many to ask at the meeting itself, from past experience, so I emailed them the night before to the Chair of the Board and the Chief Exec and my colleagues on the accountable body. I also had noticed some factual errors within the report that needed changing before it was published. I indicated that I had a lot of questions I wanted to ask about the content of the report, asking for further information about the success of certain projects for instance. I also said that I had noted some errors and that I could not support the publication of the report until they had been corrected. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing where I was treated as though I was a trouble-causer rather than someone trying to fulfill her scrutiny role, we did eventually agree that I would work with the report's author to correct the factual mistakes and I have spoken to her now about those half a dozen items. I am still waiting to hear about the other questions I posed....

I left the Kensington Regeneration Board meeting to go to a Getting to Know You event organised by the Community Safety Task Force, to encourage the black community, particularly the Africans for this first meeting, to meet the Police and the Fire Service and try to dispel some of the myths and mystiques about each other. It went very well I thought, and I enjoyed the African food! Actually I had three lots of African food last week, cassava bread, minced cassava, friend chicken, rice yum yum

And other things I did in March...

Siddi and Liver World have been to the Gambia and back in March, I will do a proper big blog about that later, because we paid for the airflights from our Working Neighbourhoods Fund and also for a formal exhbition and display of the trip which should be arranged for later this month when I can say more about it.

I have done a visit to Prescot Drive children's home and this time I managed to go when the children were at home and at their leisure, so that I could observe them and their interaction with their carers. It was a very positive visit, I shant say more than that, but you might be interested to know that we submit a full report after each visit which is then responded to by the home and their staff.

Road humps on the Molyneux - after about the 19th email over about 3 years (and I still have them all), Highways Engineers finally agreed to prioritise the area around Molyneux/Boaler/Farnworth with speed humps to calm the traffic. They have put out a consultation document asking for responses as to the suitability of the scheme, the location of the humps etc, but we are confident that there will be a big positive response. The Labour team managed to put out a leaflet encouraging people to return the consultation and also updating them about the anti-social behaviour action mentioned above and the possibility of getting the Molyneux Residents back up and running again after a quiet period. I notice Colin Eldridge is trying to claim credit for this, but given that it has been Labour councillors working with residents, gathering names on petitions etc, that have been working with Highways to get to this stage, and it is Labour Government monies paying for this, and his own personal contribution has been non-existent, this will only serve to further annoy local people. They know when they have been collecting petitions following accidents affecting their children for instance, that it is they who have done the work, and this casual appropriation of their successes by the Liberal Democracts really causes ill-feeling. - and it is not the first time either.

Some extracts from March's diary

Wendy and I went to the debut of the new St Francis of Assisi Choir that we have been supporting through our Working Neigbourhoods Fund. They were supporting another choir at Phil Hayes' New Picket on Jordan Street - my favourite venue in Liverpool. The all-girls choir were pretty good considering they had only been learning for about 6 weeks at that point. I expect great things from them in the future. We are keen to support activities for teenage girls who often lose out to the usual provision of football for the lads. But we also want to divert them from the lure of sitting off in Newsham Park drinking alcohol.

We have been holding meetings in the Molyneux Road area to try to combat a rise in Anti Social Behaviour, working with local residents and shop keepers, in partnership with the police and the Liverpool ASB unit, Central Youth Club and the detached youth service, helping to fund the detached youth service and the police operation out of our Working Neighbourhood Fund. It is a very slow road to resolution but at least everyone is focussed on the problem.

20th March was the Lady Mayoress's At Home which she held in Liverpool Town Hall for around 200 women. It was her birthday a few day's later and Claire Wilner's on that day, so we all sang Happy Birthday to them both. It was a lovely evening, although we could not stay as long as we might have liked because we had not appreciated the nature of the event before we got there and had made further arrangements. Wendy said it was very kind of Sandra Rotheram to throw such a great party for our Claire.

The following day I went with half a dozen of Claire's other friends for afternoon tea in the London Carriageworks, which was great. The scones were very poor, hard and overcooked, but when Claire drew this to the attention of the Maitre D' he arranged for a fresh batch to be cooked for us, there and then. How is that for service! He was rather handsome too, I thought.