Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Liberal Democrat Councillor defects to Labour in Liverpool

Councillor Ian Jobling, who I have always had a lot of time for, since his days as the Chair of the Local Area Committee for Everton, Picton and Kensington and Fairfield, has today officially defected to Labour in Liverpool.

Ian, who represents the Picton ward, joined the Labour Party this week and cut up his Liberal Democrat membership card, because he is desperately unhappy with the programme of spending cuts imposed by the Conservative/LibDem Coalition Government. Ian has until today sat on Merseyside Police Authority and was particularly unhappy with proposed cuts to Police spending, given, he said, the commitments made by the LibDems in their pre-election manifesto.

The news has been picked up across the media. The BBC have it here and the Liverpool Echo here

Ian has always enjoyed a good relationship with all of the councillors in Liverpool and I hope and trust that this move will not generate the bitterness that defections usually engender. I know that he had already announced his intention not to seek re-election as a LibDem councillor a few weeks before he took the decision to join the Labour Party, and that he has not been promised anything as a result of this defection. That is not to say that he may or may not wish to throw his hat in the ring to become a Labour candidate in future local government elections, taking his chances with all of our other many candidates (we have about 60 who have been authorised to compete for the chance to stand in 30 seats in the city).

I also know that Ian stands to lose money as a result of making this move now and not just sitting out the rest of his term on the LibDem back benches as he has been obliged to come off the Police Authority, his place having been a LibDem appointment which he will not now be entitled to. This is as clear a case of principled action as we are likely to see.

I know from talking to him that having been a member of the Liberal Party and then the LibDems since he was a teenager, this will not have been a decision taken lightly or with ease. Ian clearly feels unable to stay in and support a Party that is acting so far away from its mandate or the wishes of its members as expressed at so many conferences etc in the past.

I wish him all the best in his new Party, there have been a lot of murmurings of approval and support from the Labour Party, both within the Labour Group and within the wider Party as the news has come out and I am sure he will receive a warm welcome from us all.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Are you interested in theatre, music, dance, art, design, film or puppetry?

From an email - of interest to local people on Liverpool.

The Suitcase Ensemble is a Liverpool-based theatre collective who create original and imaginative artistic experiences.

In September 2010, we are starting a weekly drama group for adults living in Picton, Kensington and Fairfield, Central, Princes Park, Greenbank and Wavertree wards.

Free to take part. No Experience necessary.

Just a willingness to get involved and a birth date before Sept 1992 (aged 18 and over).

‘Sound Tracks’ will initially run for 12 weeks on Monday evenings from September – November at Metal’s newly refurbished space for art at Edge Hill Station. All we ask is that you can commit to every session over the 12 weeks.

To register your interest in taking part:
email tessa@suitcase-ensemble.com or call 07916 920415 with your name, phone number and address.
You will receive an invitation to the first session.

For further information
call 0151 7072277
or 07916 920415
email tessa@suitcase-ensemble.com
or visit www.suitcase-ensemble.com

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Winter Fuel Payments - are they still "safe"?

Readers will recall that I wrote back in January that Winter Fuel Payments were under threat if the Tories got into power. I cannot take you to the original entry because I was asked to edit it by a Tory Councillor on the Wirral who took issue with me This is the revised version. But from memory I said the Tories would scrap the allowance which had been worth £2500 to date to pensioner recipients.

Other bloggers were encouraged to join in the debate, David Bartlett and Tom Morrison focussing not on whether the fuel allowance was under threat but on the fact that I had edited my entry after the challenge.

At the time, Cllr Ian Lewis said on his blog*

Utter rubbish and the last, desperate attempts to cling on by scaring some of the most vulnerable people into voting for you.

Let’s be clear: the Conservatives will not scrap the Winter Fuel Payment. Full stop.

Obviously Ian's comments were heartfelt and he really meant what he said. Sadly however it would seem that he, like us, may have been mislead. All the news outlets today are talking about Iain Duncan Smith wanting to get tough with universal benefits, maybe tapering them, changing the age at which they become applicable etc. And Nick Clegg seems to be somewhat supportive of this move, if his reported comments today are anything to go by.

So it seems the "Full Stop" may have been more of a "comma" - to be followed by the words "or at least not until the October spending review and after that it is anyone's guess".

I hope reports are overly pessimistic today and that the allowance is still safe.

*It is interesting to see that Ian's blog has been depoliticised. It had been quite firmly associated with the Conservative Party, bearing the Tory logo etc but these have been removed. The only reference now is at the foot of the page and a statement reads "This is the website of Steve Smith and Councillor Ian Lewis. We are working on many of the issues in Moreton and Leasowe, putting our community first and Party politics second." I wonder how many other Tories and LibDems in the North of England have begun to move away from their Party colours in this way?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pakistan Flood Appeal

Have you made a contribution yet to Pakistan, via the DEC? Come on guys, dig deep. 20 million homeless, that is the same as the population of Austrialia, more or less. 4 times the population of Scotland or 7 times the number of people living in Wales. Try to get your head round that. They need money, lots of it, lets show that we Brits are generous and we do have compassion. I worry that Pakistan is not a popular cause within our country and I urge you to prove me wrong!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Talk and Ride

This is an interesting little exercise being carried out today in North Liverpool.

As advised to me by email by the award-winning Sergeant Simon Joyce himself!

Following on from the success of Talk and Ride event which took place in June 2010, I am pleased to announce that "Talk and Ride 2" has been organised to take place on Monday 17 August 2010.

The event will be of a similar format to the last event where Detectives from the Liverpool North Burglary Team will travel on public transport along the main arterial routes in Liverpool North spending a few minutes talking to elderly members of the community and providing them with home security advice particularly in relation to distraction burglaries.

The Liverpool North Burglary Team provide Crime Prevention advice as part of our core business and this event is another strand of distributing key messages to vulnerable groups.

The local Neighbourhood Police Teams also provide advice, re-assurance and some target hardening good to victims and any other resident in their area

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Real Man

This made me giggle...

A real man is a woman's best friend.
He will never stand her up and never let her down.
He will reassure her when she feels insecure and comfort her after a bad day.

He will inspire her to do things she never thought she could do; to live without fear and forget regret.
He will enable her to express her deepest emotions and give in to her most intimate desires.
He will make sure she always feels as though she's the most beautiful woman in the room and will enable her to be the most confident, sexy, seductive, and invincible.

No wait... sorry...

I'm thinking of wine.
It’s wine that does all that.......
Never mind.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Message from Harriet Harman, Acting Leader of the Labour Party

I have just had this message from Harriet, I thought I would share it with you. She has some very interesting things to say!

Dear Louise

Around the country Labour has been getting great results in council by-elections. The results in votes cast in all the council by-elections in July and in the first weeks of August show us neck and neck with the Tories on 34%. The Lib Dems were on 24%.

Our catch-up with the Tories is remarkable in view of the fact that only 14 weeks ago in the General Election we were 8% behind the Tories. This shows that the party is determined to fight back. I strongly believe that support for the Government will ebb away even further as people see the risks that the Government is taking with the economy, when they feel the impact of the unfair VAT increase and the public service cuts.

There is encouraging news of more new members continuing to join the Labour Party. Across the country, the Party has gained 27,894 new members since May 6th. A third of these new members are people who have formerly supported the Lib Dems. Half are Labour voters who now believe that they must join the Labour Party to fight the Government and 10% have joined to take part in our leadership election.

Our conference in Manchester will see us take another important step forward when we unveil our new leader.

Best wishes,

Harriet Harman

Creative thinking required to get through funding crisis

For the last ten years or so there has been a real culture of reliance on grants to fund community based organisations.

When I was a kid we had collection boxes that we rattled on the street, envelopes to push through doors, sponsored discos, cake sales, summer fetes, tombolas, bob-a- job, jumble sales, charity shops... If you needed money for a leaking roof or a new football kit or to hire a minibus, then you set to and raised the money.

Our Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool was built by public subscription, a few pence each week from the congregation - I am not suggesting that they were the glory days, by the way, I know that put some families into difficult financial circumstances, but that is how it always was in the past.

Unfortunately people have become totally dependent upon filling in an application form and waiting for a big cheque to arrive. In fact in Kensington and Fairfield, most groups that have been formed in the last ten years are not aware that there is any other way to raise money. When you sit round a table and say “We need to raise £3000 for new gym equipment for the youth club” or “We need £10k for a welfare benefits advisor”, the first question anyone asks is about any grants we might apply for. Any financial advisor worth their salt will know that you should not put all your eggs in one basket but that is exactly what has been going on.

The New Deal did not help in this regard; it had huge sums of money that it dispensed on a grants basis, so that although groups were well supported at the time, they have no experience of raising any money themselves and no concept of where to start. And with the New Deal gone, so has their source of income. There were lots of promises of exit strategies for community organisations by KNDC, that they would offer help to groups to become sustainable so they could carry on effectively, but I don’t see the evidence that it happened.

It should be obvious to everyone that grants are pretty much finished now. They have paid out their last penny in many cases.

The NWDA (Regional Development Agency) have had their funding slashed, so they won’t be able to support so much, including Liverpool Vision who in turn will have less cash to dispense. Housing Associations are tightening their belts as HMRI funding is slashed and VAT due to rise. Local Government is expecting to make cuts of between 25% and 40% much of which is bound to come from the Area Based Grant, the Working Neighbourhood Fund, etc. So there will be less money for the voluntary sector all round. Local Councillors in Liverpool have already taken a cut in their devolved budgets. We will be lucky to have anything like the same level of funding in future – and in our deprived ward alone we have been paying out about £100k per year to local projects who provide the kind of services we want to see.

Every funding opportunity that still remains – banks giving away community chests for instance, or B&Q giving away free equipment will all be heavily oversubscribed.

We need a radical rethink about fundraising for our local organisations. That’s the fatal flaw in Cameron’s Big Society incidentally – the concept that the voluntary sector will take up all the slack if he slashes public spending. Where will the voluntary sector get the money from to keep going when they have always been given it by the public sector!?

I don’t look forward to the day when we have to hold cake sales to raise money to pay for a Domestic Violence Advisor, but I can see it coming unless we start some creative thinking at a local level very soon.

I believe it is imperative that we provide some in depth and thoughtful training for our local groups about how best to fundraise in difficult times and I am going to talk to my co-councillors about us supporting that. We really need to be on the ball about this and move quickly, the early bird catches the worm, as they say, and when it comes to fundraising that is most definitely true. I don’t know how we are going to pay for the training though, does anyone know if there is any grant funding available?!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why Theresa May is wrong about ASBOs

It is natural for a Socialist to be against ASBOs, instinctively all punitive measures smack of big brother and a failure to recognise the causes of crime.

We all want to be thoughtful and sensitive about the sh*t lives that criminals have lead that have brought them into a court. And so we are, by and large. Most criminal and anti-social behaviour is driven by poverty, drugs and alcohol, not by a satanic outlook, they don't desire to be bad.

And you don't want to start me off talking about some of the appalling ways that prisoners in our British prisons are treated, most of you would probably be glad and I would be as popular as midges on a summer holiday in Scotland if I stood up for them. So I shant go there tonight.

But I do want to talk about ASBO's and why they really do matter.

I think it was Hazel Blears who introduced the idea of ASBOs, she is not a popular politician any more but I think she got it spot on when she said that it was our people, Labour people, living in Labour communities that were suffering from the effects of anti-social behaviour. That it was time that Labour stood up for its own and took steps to stop this.

So what is anti-social behaviour? I think by definition it is behaviour that is not criminal, that is the first thing. It is not about drug dealing or burglary or GBH for instance. It is behaviour that blights lives but is not obviously dealt with by the criminal law system. So what might it involve? Very often involving neighbours (did anyone ever make that clear before I wonder?) it is about loud music, noise, shouting, excessive drinking, intimidation, swearing, urinating, bullying, throwing things, spitting, hurting animals, setting small fires, sitting on the step through the night with the ghetto blaster blaring, hurling abuse, threatening to hurt someone... and so it goes on.

An ASBO is not granted for a first offence of this type, or a second, or a third, or even a twentieth sometimes. It can be months and years of such abusive and difficult behaviour before someone is given an ASBO. Months and years of community members compiling detailed diaries and sharing them with the police or the local housing association. Months and years of numerous phone calls to the police, of disruption and upset with local people unable to sleep calmly in their own beds.

ASBOs are granted to all sorts of people, not just youngsters, although it is popular to think it is only young people that are so charged. Many adults are responsible, including pensioners.

And when the ASBO comes into place it forbids that person from going to certain places, from gathering in groups with others if that has been part of the behaviour, from intimidating their neighbours.

And our experience in Kensington has tended to show that where an ASBO has been granted, which limits the behaviour of an individual and expects only neighbourly activity from them, it does work. Streets calm down instantly. Sometimes, if the holder of an ASBO lives in social housing, they lose their home and are forced to live somewhere else, another reason why an ASBO can be a boon to a community.

A breach of an ASBO might be an isolated incidence of shouting or swearing, or throwing a stone. It might come months after a period of calm. Many holders of ASBOs are forgiven several incidents of lapsed behaviour before they are brought back to court for serious sanctions, but in the meantime the community has respite. Everything goes quiet.

To suggest that one lapse of behaviour, one breach of an ASBO after potentially hundreds of incidents of bad behaviour followed by a period of calm, is somehow a failure of the system, as Theresa May does, is to miss the obvious.

If you have committed 300 incidents of ASB and then get an ASBO and then you broadly behave yourself, and give respite to your neighbour, then you commit say half a dozen more over a few months before your breached ASBO is brought into a court, it is still a vast improvement on the previous months of hourly, daily mayhem.

Theresa May, I assume, lives in a nice quiet leafly cul-de-sac where no-one has a clue about ASB, she wont realise the wonderful period of calm that can follow the imposition of an ASBO or how small the relapse can be, compared to the earlier unchallenged behaviour, that leads the establishment to deem a breach.

Once a community has stood together to create an ASBO it is much stronger and ready to create reports demonstrating a breach. Even if half of ASBOs are breached, for a period of time each and every one in my experience has brought respite and breaches are jumped upon much harder by a strengthened and revitalised community than the initial behaviour ever was.

I am still waiting to hear what might happen to ASBOs that are still live should such things be scrapped. It is not a great thought!

Scrapping ASBOs is short sighted and I hope the ConDem Home Secretary will change her mind.

Liverpool's first "official" Pride, August 7th 2010


"Liverpool Pride" indeed and so much to be proud of!

In January 2009 I was at a meeting of Liverpool City Council when we voted for a proposal to have a Pride festival in Liverpool (well most of us did anyway!). It felt good, we left the meeting on a high.

In May 2009 I was at the IDAHO event in Liverpool Town Hall where the LCVS LGBT Network was consulting about a possible Pride event in Liverpool. I remember giving my response on tape, talking about how it should be inclusive, something for everyone, calm and reflective as well as great fun and very colourful. The organisers encapsulated all of that.

On Friday we had a multi-faith Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) religious service.

On Saturday we had a march, a parade without floats or motorised vehicles, full of public servants, the police, fire service, youth services, LGBT groups, political parties, health workers... many of them LGBT themselves but some there to show support for others. And of course there were thousands of enthusiastic people of all ages marching in joy, marching in solidarity. Some marching "out and proud", flamboyant in their costumes, some marching quietly and dressed to conform, but with deep personal satisfaction that their time too had come.

This was no hole and corner march either, it was lead by Liverpool's first citizen, The Lord Mayor, Councillor Hazel Williams with her little grandchild, accompanied by the Town Crier, both of them in all their regalia. Hazel incidentally was marvellous, full of joie de vivre, she danced with drag queens and twirled with the Town Crier to the delight of the crowds. We all owe her huge thanks for her support and for holding a civic reception in the Town Hall and for flying the rainbow flag above.

After the march we enjoyed countless performers, singers, dancers and artists on three stages across the gay quarter in town. 6 hours of live music and performance enjoyed by gay and straight alike, grannies and grandchildren, mums and dads, wives and wives, husbands and husbands, boys, girls and lovers, and all their friends.

Then, Chill Out Sunday, the museums and art galleries of the city threw open their doors with a bevy of LGBT offerings - films, tours and exhibitions (Hockney at the Walker to name but one), while at Wavertree Sports Centre, LGBT teams competed in football tournaments, rounders, water polo and tug-of-war.

The whole weekend passed off beautifully, incident free. There were those who came into Liverpool full of confidence, passion, excitement and enthusiasm, ready to celebrate their sexuality and have a really great time, and there were those for whom this was the first time they tiptoed out of the closet, blinking into the daylight. Some of the older people who have hidden themselves for decades, who lived through times when to be gay was to be prosecuted and persecuted and subjected to hideous electric tortures, bashed and bullied, forbidden to marry or have children, came to finally feel valued. Others slipped into the march behind appropriate banners and walked round in open-mouthed amazement as the ordinary folk of Liverpool lined the streets to clap and nod and smile and be overheard saying to each other "It is all about being fair, it is important, it is right".

The Labour Party did us proud. There must have been 40 people at least who marched behind our LGBT Labour banner, 80% of the City Council Cabinet were there, a good half of the Labour Group of Councillors, supportive straight members joining in solidarity with LGBT members. We had gay members from across the NW and a few from further afield - Birmingham and London for instance.

I did have a few tears in my eyes, particularly as I saw the people lining the streets in support, ordinary people doing their shopping, tourists, families, stopping to clap and cheer. And the greatest supporters in the crowd were white haired pensioner women. They cheered and waved and were all encouraging smiles as we marched past. They really lifted my heart.

Liverpool has not always had a good reputation for being open to diversity, but in 2010 the city rose to the challenge.

I am proud of the city, its people, the Labour Party, my LGBT friends, the council, the public services and I cannot wait to do it all again next year! Bring it on!

Photo: Courtesy of Liverpool Pride. The sea of red you can see are the Labour LGBT group in their "35 years of equality" t-shirts. There were as many marching in civvies as there were in red t-shirts, so you can see how huge our group was! I was thrilled to be marching directly behind Mike and Marrie and Debbie Causer who I am now pleased to be friends with, who keep their gay son and brother's candle burning through the Michael Causer Foundation, in a dedicated campaign to bring meaning to his brutal murder.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A few highlights

I have been too busy to blog, of late, sorry to everyone who has come looking for news and found the cupboard bare.

Here are a few highlights of the last couple of weeks

I have been to Manchester to meet the Heritage Lottery Fund people to explain why the costs for the cemetery restoration have gone up so much since our original estimate. One of the regional team is coming for a look round in early September before their next committee, just to make sure that they are still satisfied we are on track. I am so nervous about it all, but am sure that when she sees the cemetery for herself, she will fall in love with it too.

We had a great night out at Jimmy's Grill on Prescot Road in Fairfield to celebrate the ongoing successes of KVFM and the online project, we took the whole place over, if you have not been, I can recommend it, great Indian food.

I delivered some regional Labour Party training at the Devonshire House Hotel on behalf of Progress, for would-be local government candidates from across the region. Had some good feedback last week and learnt that one of the women I trained has already been selected for a seat in West Lancs.

We had a good respect week in Kensington and Fairfield. Torrential rain did not stop our successful community BBQ on the Monday lunchtime, with fun and games and lots of stalls, all under cover at St Francis of Assisi Academy. There were lots of good events throughout the week, including jobs cafe, business events, neighbourhood watch set-ups. We had traffic wardens patrolling our hotspots and dog wardens patrolling our dirt spots. The police did loads of work and cleared up lots of outstanding warrants. We are going to have a think about making some changes for next year so that it stays fresh and exciting and we still need to do a lot more work on publiciting and marketing of events.

On that note I am working up a proposal to be funded via our devolved budget, for a marketing events training session during October half term at the Academy. I will be sending out invites shortly for everyone in our ward who organises events so that we can all learn how to ensure we get the best possible turnouts and audiences.

I have had a good meeting with the LCC officers organising the housing needs survey to ensure that they are interviewing a representative number of BME and disabled people who have particular housing needs, so that we capture those.

I went to Burton Manor on the Wirral to an AGM, as a new governor. A very interesting place, an adult residential college which seems rather underutilised to me, I have asked about their marketing strategy, we shall learn more at the next meeting.

I went to the Labour Party leadership hustings in Manchester to listen to and learn more about the five candidates for the post - Ed and David Miliband, Ed Balls, Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham. I still dont know who to vote for though, they all had strong points but none of them really quite did it for me. I have never voted for the winner in any leadership campaign though, so I dont suppose this vote will matter to the result either!

I spoke at the vigil to mark the second anniversary of the murder of Michael Causer. You can see the film here, thanks to Tim Brunsden for putting it together. Or try looking on the Homotopia TV website and clicking on the Michael Causer link on the right.

We had a meeting to discuss further proposals for a new Edge Hill Youth Club, we have to make sure the club can afford to pay the extra funds required for enhancements upon what they already have in their current facility - we hope to have some clarity on that next week.

I have been to three select committees, two as Assistant Cabinet Member and one as a committee member in my own right, I am enjoying them after not being on any last year.

I did a citizenship ceremony with Roger Phillips yesterday, he was telling me that he had a trapped nerve and had been off sick for a couple of days, the first time in over 30 years of working for BBC Radio Merseyside, what a good clean sheet!

We had our Hate Crime Reduction Forum away day last week, and have some really great stuff to go on the action plan, what a shame we will have to progress without Phil Garrigan who has been a fantastic secondee from the Fire Service, and is going back there on promotion.

And of course there was Pride.......but that deserves an entry all of its own!