Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A new role - and a big thank you for the help and support last year

At last night’s Liverpool City Council AGM I was elected as Chair of Finance and Resources Select Committee, an exciting new role for me with a focus on scrutinising the council and its plans and policies around finances, budgets, HR and staffing amongst others. There will be a huge amount of detailed learning to do, understanding the new changes in Local Government finance whilst ensuring that we have absolutely the right policies in place for our workforce, but I am keen to take up the challenge.

This will of course mean however that I relinquish the role I have held this year of Assistant Cabinet Member for Equality and Diversity and Community Cohesion supporting Councillor Ann O’Byrne in particular in her role as Cabinet Member for Community Safety as well as Councillor Paul Brant looking at E&D as employers.

I have really enjoyed the work, more than you can possibly imagine, working alongside some great people on some very important issues for our city

We have done really good things to help tackle hate crime, and as the Chair of the Liverpool Hate Crime Reduction Forum I was very proud at our last meeting to hear from the national co-ordinator, Stephen Brookes MBE that Liverpool is held as a beacon of good practice in this area. With the RSLs agreeing Minimum Standards to tackle hate crime and the launch of LCCs Hate Crime Policy, to name but two of our achievements this year, as well as the good work developing further partnership working across all the agencies, we have achieved some really positive work this year.

We have worked really hard on the anti-homophobic bullying strategy across Liverpool, with a real partnership approach including LCC, GYRO and YPAS, Aerial Trust, Homotopia and Project Triangle, Armistead, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and Merseyside Police, Liverpool Youth Service and our Schools. This work which I hope will continue to be built upon should also see us leading the way nationally in this field as we have a very good story to tell.

The community cohesion action plans for the city have been closely monitored with the involvement for the first time of councilors as Community Cohesion Champions across the neighbourhoods working directly with officers and partners on very local issues of cohesion and tension monitoring in their area.

We had a wonderful inaugural Liverpool Pride, supported by the LGBT network, the council, police, fire-service, RSLs, Victim Support, Sigma and many different groups and organisations, bringing a wonderful day for the community, I look forward to 2011, see you all there!

I had huge support and help with Holocaust Memorial Day and Liverpool Remembers – again I believe we lead the country in drawing the analogies between Hate Crime and Holocaust and using the opportunity to look at today’s community cohesion issues in conjuction with reflections upon historical and current holocaust and genocide.

I was also delighted to play a small part in the support of the launch of the Liverpool Women’s Network through the good work of LCVS.

I could go on, and I am sure there are many great things we have done together in Liverpool over the last 12 months to further develop and grow the strength of our communities.

I want to thank everyone I have worked with who have offered me tremendous support and encouragement, and achieved some wonderful results for our city. My interest in this work has always been personal as well as professional so I don’t intend to walk away entirely, if I can help to support any projects or initiatives in the future in a personal capacity, I will of course do so.

Monday, May 23, 2011

HomeWatch meeting for Newsham Park area

Mark Boardman, chair of Newsham Park Homewatch has asked me to let you know that the next meeting will take place on Thursday 26th May 2011 between 7pm and 8pm at the Adult Learning centre on Newsham Drive. The meeting will include a presentation from the Police.

All residents welcome

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bistro Yard 2011, L15

Another summer on its way and another hoped-for and keenly anticipated colourful array of annuals in the hanging baskets, pots, tubs and patio containers in my yard.

I planted early this year, Sunday 8th May, only a few days after the local elections. I don't recall ever planting so early before so it will be interesting to see what difference the extra 2-4 weeks growing time will make once summer really arrives. I also planted a new and innovative growing "sheet" with pockets and used veg and fruit grow-bag compost rather than traditional patio compost, so that is another experiment the results of which I am looking forward to.

I have been working over the last few years to eradicate green fly (you won't see another Petunia in any of my containers again) and to beat the slugs and snails at their own game (I have methodically worked out what they will and won't attack and Busy Lizzies, Geraniums and Fuschia in particular seem like a good bet). So I do hope that this year's offerings will do really well.

I sense that this year is going to be about the battle to keep everything well-watered and I have begun by working a small hose into the regime. Here's hoping we don't have a hose-pipe pan in 2011 otherwise the watering will take an hour instead of 15 minutes each day!

Here are a few "before photos", I will post up some "during" and "after" photos in a few months time so that you can see what has been successful.

Any other tips on container gardening will be gratefully received.

Keeping it in the Family on KVFM with St Francis of Assisi Academy

I was invited this week to take part in a radio show on Liverpool's best (and sadly "only" at the moment) community radio station, KVFM online.

The programmes all week were designed, produced and presented by St Francis of Assisi Academy, and I was asked onto one show to talk about my genealogy expertise, the historical diversity of Liverpool and also to explain the British Citizenship Ceremonies that I regularly take part in.

I was only on for a short time, I think we were all done in about ten minutes, but the interviewers were interested to hear about my family tree research and how I have traced the Baldock family back 500 years (almost exactly) to farmers from a village in Nottinghamshire called Plumtree. I talked about how when I started my research in 1983, Mum and I spent days and weekends away at Record Offices across the country, and in London in Somerset House, at the National Records Office but how that has changed since the development of the internet. They asked me for my favourite websites and I told them about some that can be a great boon to researchers, like Ancestry. I didnt have time to talk about Rootschat but I can definitely recommend that one too. It is particularly good where you have hit a dead end, because many thousands of people will step in to search records on your behalf and recommend courses of action that you could take.

I also explained about the Mormons and their desire to posthumously baptise the ancestors of any Mormons as Mormons themselves so as to increase the number of people who will be saved into the Kingdom of God (even if they happened to be a Church of England Vicar or a devout Muslim in life). The benefit of this activity is hugely significant to genealogists as it has resulted in decades of capturing the details of parish registers and recording them for genealogists so as to aid their efforts in identifying their family. Their world renowned website can be found at  Family Search. It should be noted that the registers have been captured and transcribed by volunteers rather than professionals and so do require the original sources to be checked, but nonetheless it is a wonderful resource.

We also spent some time talking about the British Citizenship Ceremonies which take place in Liverpool's Register Office at the Cotton Exchange approximately fortnightly. I explained that many new citizens are professionals, vitally important NHS doctors and nurses working in the Royal, Aintree and our other hospitals, professors and lecturers from our three universities, as well as those seeking refuge from tyrannical regimes in other countries. The interviewers from SFA were interested to hear about the oaths and affirmations that new citizens make, as well as singing the national anthem in front of their new flag (and the difficulties I have as a Republican in taking part in the latter).

This was all part of a wider debate on the diversity of Liverpool and how people who live here now have origins from all over the country and all over the world. It seems that virtually everyone who lives in Liverpool has some Irish ancestry for instance (I am 1/16th Irish for instance, the other 15/16ths being English). A whole series of guests were coming in to the studio in the time I was there.

Well done to KVFM and SFA for a great week on air!

Burglars Beware! New Neighbourhood Watch schemes springing up across Kensington and Fairfield

All praise to PCSO Rob Moore from Tuebrook Police Station for supporting the establishment of so many new Neighbourhood Watch schemes across L7, both in Kensington and Fairfield.

There has been a recent rise in burglaries in our area, often precipitated by the release of offenders following prison sentences. Thankfully our Merseyside Police are really good at keeping on eye on known burglars, catching them if they reoffend and sending them back to prison, but inevitably they have to come out again sometime and so it all starts again.

It may be fashionable to scoff at "net-twitchers" but in reality it is only by everyone keeping an eye on activities in the street and reporting anything that looks suspicious that burglars can be defeated.

Wendy, Liam and I were pleased to attend the launch of a new Kensington Resident's Association on Saturday, at an open day based in Kensington Methodist Church, where we learnt more about new NWs for the Anglezark/Solomon/Balm area (for which we bought the lamp-post signs last year from our devolved budget) and the Needham Road area, particularly Frost and Dial Streets and further plans for others in the process of being set up.

It was good fun, we had coffee and cake, watched young people perform dance routines, and Wendy and Liam both won on the tombola. (I never win on the tombola, it appears I unwittingly traded in any potential luck with competitions for the joy of always finding a parking space, anywhere, any time. Don't believe me? Put me to the test! I don't know how it happened and I don't recall asking for the luck, but it works when I am a passenger in other people's cars too. Sadly it means I never get any numbers on the lottery, but then I don't do it very often, whereas I park several times a day!)

If any other groups in either Kensington or Fairfield wish to set up Neighbourhood Watch schemes to complement these (and the one in Fairfield Crescent and Prospect Vale for instance) then please call either Rob Moore or one of the councillors.

People power wins victory on Edge Lane

Residents of Botanic Place, off Edge Lane, Kensington are celebrating upon hearing the news that their campaign to fight unsuitable traffic plans has been successful.

Proposals were to close the central reservation on Edge Lane (opposite Botanic Park) to "aid the flow of traffic heading into town". This however would have meant a very lengthy detour for residents in the 40 houses in this little cul-de-sac off the north side of Edge Lane. Householders wishing to travel into town, or onto Botanic Road or Durning Road would have been obliged to drive all the way to Laurel Road and execute a u-turn and then come back along Edge Lane (a move currently banned, but this would have been lifted if the plans went ahead), or drive in a big square via Deane Road, Kensington and Holt Road, over traffic calming and through three sets of traffic lights.

At peak times this would have meant delays of up to ten minutes on their journeys.

Residents coming home to Botanic Place from the east along Edge Lane would also have been obliged to execute a u-turn at the planned new junction at Holt Road.

The plans were first mooted about a year ago and were immediately rejected by residents. They had experienced the problems caused when the reservation was closed due to road works recently, so they knew how difficult this would be for them.

And as they made clear with their objections, they were there first! These houses have been there for nearly 100 years and residents have been coming into and out of the road, safely and without incident since there were horses, carts and trams using Edge Lane. To disrupt their lives every time they left their house, for the benefit of people who were merely passing by, was to put motorists before residents, to put cars before our duty of care.

We have already witnessed the disgraceful and shameful spectacle of people forced out of their houses on the south side of Toft Street 100 yards west of Botanic Place, under a LibDem administration. Houses compulsorily purchased and demolished, not because there was anything wrong with them, nor indeed were they actually in the way of proposed key-worker flats on this site (if they ever get built, given the Tory/LibDem Government's scrapping of HMRI). They were knocked down because LLDC (a forerunner of Liverpool Vision) felt, with the demolition of the grander houses on the front of Edge Lane exposing their rear elevations, passing motorists would not want to look at what were described as "Coronation Street" properties. Such arch snobbery was unforgiveable in my view and I objected to the CPO for Edge Lane in support of Toft Street residents but we lost that particular battle.

With that memory still searing, the Labour councillors for K&F supported the residents' campaign to have the traffic plans squashed, writing letters of objection and also inviting the project managers to meet them and hear their concerns first hand.

So we were all absolutely delighted to hear that the council had listened this time and the plans had been dropped.

One resident told Wendy and me that it was a waste of time opposing the plans, or writing a letter of objection because the little people never win against the bigger organisations, but now he knows different!

Thanks to everyone involved in the Edge Lane plans, the Labour Council, Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, Highways, Regeneration, 2020Liverpool and Liverpool Vision for their pragmatic decision and for listening. You have done the right thing and you have made a lot of people very happy and restored their belief in community and democracy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

STAR - Student Action for Refugees - Kensington Community Clean Up Day

To those who believe students, refugees and asylum-seekers make bad neighbours, I want to share news of a great project with you. STAR - Student Action for Refugees have been doing some top work with Asylum Link in our area. This is a really fabulous story that I hope you will enjoy. It will surely open a few eyes.

The first I heard of it came in an email from Seena Karimi in April, where she said

"I am a student at the university of Liverpool and member of a community organization known as STAR (student action for refugees) We are having an event called: 'Community Clean up'. It is a collaborative effort between our student organization and Asylum Link. What we will be doing is marching from outside Asylum Link in Overton street, to Kensington Methodist church (which traverses the area our projects cover) and picking up litter along the way. We have been kindly supported by community organizations such as 'Your Place' which will provide us with equipment, and the Kensington neighbourhood team which has advertised the opportunity to the public.

One of our main projects is hosting a weekly conversation class in Asylum Link, which gives Asylum seekers a voice, and aims to improve their ability of spoken English. I believe this has become a project beyond what it set out to be, and we have developed one of the most unique and hopeful relationships in Liverpool. We have made an isolated, often outcast group of people feel wanted and bestowed them with the gift of friendship and unity. One of the people we have influenced, Suren, an asylum seeker from Sri Lanka, has even become inspired to give something back to the community. This idea was his inspiration, and we hope to host many projects together in the future."

I kept in touch with her and after the event she sent me the following information

On one sunny Friday afternoon, asylum seekers and students alike, were on a mission: to clean up the streets of Kensington! This ambitious venture was undertaken by two groups of dissimilar people, Asylum seekers from Asylum Link Merseyside and students from the University of Liverpool. But there is no doubt we all shared the same hopes and dreams that day.


Armed with sparkling blue litter bags and litter pickers, our scheme involved us marching from Edge Hill to Kensington, and collecting as much rubbish as we could on the way. Admittedly it was a bit slow to start off with, and it took some time for us to get used to scooping handfuls of cigarette butts from pub corners, and plucking crisp bags from the grass, but it wasn’t long until we were well on our way. For some, crisp packets and cigarette butts were simply not enough! And braver group members attempted to tackle some of our more formidable opponents, such as dog muck, and abandoned condoms. By the time we reached Kensington, many of us were already in a spirit of healthy competition, in a race between each other to see who could fill more bags of rubbish.

 Looking back, it is remarkable to think how much fun our ‘community clean up day’ actually was. It was a unique social opportunity, where people of all races and walks of life could mingle, make new friends and do something for the community at the same time.

We also learnt a lot more than picking up rubbish that day, and one of our most important lessons was the benefits of teamwork and unity. Whenever our group scattered, we could achieve so little on our own, but when we walked together in one large group, we were able to renovate the bleakest backstreet in one great sweep. Our final challenge was giving the outside of Asylum Link itself a makeover, and by working together as a team it took us less than ten minutes to clean up almost two years worth of rubbish.

The warm smiles we received from senior citizens on buses, and the hopeful eyes of construction workers we talked to, truly made our day worth it. One kind person even stopped his car to offer us a litter picker he had found no use for. Even though we didn’t manage to clean up all the streets of Kensington, we saw that there is definitely the potential for it to happen. That is the message I want to leave you with today: we cannot walk alone. If real change is to take place in our communities it starts with every single one of us."

I really want to highlight the significance of this project, and what it represents for the future of our city. In a city often criticized for its racial tensions, we are evidently disproving this stereotype, Being possibly the most diverse range of people in Liverpool, black/white, rich/poor, young/old we all share the same aspirations for our community, and can unite as one people. It is a sign of hope, unity and change.

I hope you will agree with me that this is a wonderful story and everyone, students, refugees and asylum seekers alike, are to be congratulated for their great efforts, personally I hope to be available for the next event, for surely there will be another one, it sounds too good to miss!

Photos have been supplied by Seena

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More Ebay classes running in Kensington, Liverpool

Note from Alan Tapp at Kensington Community Learning Centre about an excellent little training course he is currently running, declutter for Spring!

Our latest round of EBAY workshops have been scheduled as follows:

Session 1 : Monday May 16th at 1pm
Session 2 : Thursday May 19th at 1pm

These workshops are providing more and more people with the opportunity to learn how to set up and operate their own EBAY trading account – OR – for those wanting to generate income without operating their own account, sell their items through KCLC’s own Community EBAY account. Here’s a reminder of some of our recent successes:

· Set of Binoculars - SOLD for £68.00
· Beatles LP - SOLD for £103.69
· A copy of the Open Bible - SOLD for £30.22
· Vintage Camera - SOLD for £147.00
· Ceiling Light – SOLD for £6.99
· Second hand mobile phone - SOLD for £27.49
· Pack of unusual Playing Cards - SOLD for £6.27

All of the above items were owned by members of our local community – and were just “lying around gathering dust” at home. The owners had no idea as to what they were worth (and neither did WE until we showed the owners how to research them).

So get your Spring Cleaning under way and seek out those unwanted items. Bring them along to our EBAY workshop and we’ll help you identify firstly whether EBAY is the right method of selling the item and if so – what you could expect to raise from the items sale. Who knows what’s tucked away in those drawers and cupboards!!

Not only is it interesting to identify the potential of your own items – it’s really interesting seeing items brought along by other members of the community.
Phone up now to reserve your place : 0151 260 1006

Friday, May 06, 2011

New political landscape in Liverpool

We felt the wind of change on the doorsteps, campaigners reporting  story after story of disillusioned LibDem voters turning to Labour, but nobody could have imagined the tornado that swept through traditional LibDem heartlands, bowling over senior figures with huge majorities.

Labour won 12 seats from the LibDems - although the journalists are trying to spin it as only 11 on the grounds that the LibDem who won Picton in 2007 subsequently defected. It was a new candidate who won the seat for Labour this year. Psephologists would disagree I am sure.

Lord Mayor Councillor Hazel Williams was cheered by all parties as she won a very comfortable victory in Tuebrook and Stoneycroft for the Liberal Party and had some very kind words of encouragement for her Labour opponent.

Deputy Leader of the Green Party, John Coyne held St Michael's comfortably and will no doubt be wondering about the implications of today's announcement about the third councillor in his ward, shamed LibDem councillor Sharon Green defecting to Independent.

Labour's doorstep campaign across the last nine months saw us talk to many thousands of voters and build relations with them so that they didn't just turn out to vote against the LibDems, they positively voted Labour. The turnout across the city being around 36% which is better than usual.

The tired LibDem practice of "Just put six leaflets out" so beloved of Lord Rennard, Chris Davies and local campaign managers completely backfired. In Wavertree they must have put a dozen leaflets out, including the increasingly hysterical attacks on the Labour candidate for daring to be young and keen - oh and the ubiquitous map showing "he doesn't live here". Guess what guys, it didnt work in 2010 and it didnt work this year either!

I am sorry to see Paul Clein go, I would much rather he had won and Kemp had lost instead, but we don't get to choose, that is for the people to decide. Paul has been a great councillor, in the community and in select commitees - and as Education Executive Member, although I wont miss his Town Hall chamber contributions quite as much. It is no secret that he was struggling with his LibDem membership after the coalition agreement nationally and so it seems unfair that he was swept away with the rest of them - not that I am not pleased to have Laura Robertson-Collins on the council in Greenbank, of course I am, but the one does not preclude the other.

I shall shed no tears for some of the others who have gone, given their authorship of some of the most scurrilous and nasty leaflets, websites etc. You reap what you sew. Don't ever forget that. When the political mood is against your party, you have to look to your relationships with your colleagues and your electorate to help you to stave off defeat, some LibDems were not able to rely on either.

I am delighted to welcome a whole range of new councillors to the Labour group in the Town Hall, young -Jake Morrison at 18 and Dan Barrington at 21 for instance and old(er), black and white, we now have three BME councillors - still a long way to go but it is a good start, gay and straight, Muslim and Jewish as well as Christians and no doubt atheists too, councillors with young families and councillors with grandchildren, from all different backgrounds - and a welcome return for two former Labour councillors, Roy Gladden and Peter Brennan.

It will be our very serious duty to continue to govern for the whole city - a task made simpler by having at least one Labour councillor in 27 of the 30 wards, we will be able to listen and respond to residents about their concerns, personally. Richard Kemp said in the paper today that part of the LibDem defeat in Liverpool came through their factionalism and infighting, that is something we must now guard against. We have been a united party since Joe Anderson gained the leadership and we owe it to the people of Liverpool to maintain that unity as we accept their trust and continue to tackle the serious problems of jobs, the economy and housing.

Great news in Kensington and Fairfield where Wendy Simon won 76% of the vote (the LibDems coming third). She has a majority of over 2000, having been elected by only 52 votes four years ago. A tremendous result that was made even more sweet by all the positive and welcoming texts and emails that came her way.

And finally, congratulations to Frank Doran on his engagement and proposed house move, good luck, we wish you all the best.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Snooing in the Sun!

The 2011 Local Elections have been very enjoyable this year.

Not only has the weather been relentlessly perfect, warm, dry and sunny, but we have had huge numbers of activists on the streets of Liverpool.

Warren Bradley in his now infamous email to Nick Clegg said "Never before in 35+ years have I seen the streets of Wavertree snooing with Labour activists".

Most of us I confess were puzzled by the adjective (or is it a verb?) "snooing" and thought it must be a typing error, but eventually someone was found who said it was a word not used much these days but perfectly authentic, which means "covered with" or "blanketed by" and perhaps refers to "snow" and has been corrupted by a local accent somewhere over the years into "snoo". (There is a ruder alternative, but I dont think Warren meant that version!)

Anyway this really tickled us in Labour HQ so for a month now we have all been referring to campaigning as "snooing", our new euphemism.

Tomorrow is polling day and apart from our GOTV exercise tomorrow (Get Out The Vote) where we will be visiting all of our Labour promises and encouraging them to vote, our snooing for this campaign is done. Liverpool Labour Party has knocked on many thousands of doors, gathered many thousands of Labour promises, written, printed, folded, stuffed and delivered thousands of leaflets and letters and postcards, got window posters up, walked miles and miles (and miles) and it is now all in the hands of the good voters to give their verdict.

In the meantime, here are a few photos from the campaign, showing some of our wonderful members and supporters snooing in the sun.

Snooing in Knotty Ash

Snooing in Wavertree

Snooing on Allerton Road, Church ward

More snooing in Wavertree (we have done rather a lot of this!)

We even found time to snoo in Kensington and Fairfield!

And there were other successful forays in lots of other wards, I even popped over to Bolton to do a session in Horwich and Blackrod for my friend Lindsey.

Great fun, good times and lots of comradely banter; the voters have been most receptive and snooing this year has been an absolute pleasure.