Friday, 29 February 2008

What a boost from Capital of Culture - and it's only February.

Look at this story from Todays Liverpool Echo. Capital of Culture is really making a difference!

Culture crowd on course to beat 10m
Feb 29 2008 by Catherine Jones, Liverpool Echo

*MORE than one million people have taken part in cultural events in Liverpool since the start of 2008.

The figure was revealed today as the city was celebrating after another big night for Capital of Culture.

Culture officials say they believe numbers will easily break the 10 million barrier by the end of the year.

Cultural director Phil Redmond said today: “It’s very exciting and I think it will only gather pace.

“The programme itself gets stronger as the year goes on.

“I think 10 million would be a pretty conservative final figure. It looks like we’re on line for more than that.”

Thousands of people took part in a string of events last night.

There was a sell-out audience at the Metropolitan Cathedral for the world premiere of Sir John Tavener’s Requiem, while audiences also packed the Everyman Theatre to see Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and the Professor Richard Dawkins lecture at the Philharmonic Hall.

ECHO editor Alastair Machray saw poet Andrew Motion.

He said: “It was like a masterclass for aspiring poets and there was a hugely enthusiastic audience.

“He said he was touched so many people had turned out given the ‘Biblical temptations’ down the road.”

The red carpet was also out for Jennifer Ellison back in town for a Liverpool premiere of her new film The Cottage, and veteran comedy act The Grumbleweeds entertained at an event to celebrate the best of the city’s pub and club life.

Last night’s events added to the 1,067,000 who have already got involved in Capital of Culture year. The figures include:

325,000 people who have visited National Museums Liverpool sites including 37,000 at the Walker art gallery to see Ben Johnson’s Cityscape.

118,000 at the Empire theatre.

70,000 at the ECHO Arena and BT Convention Centre.

48,500 at the Philharmonic.

40,000 taking part in the People’s Opening in Lime Street.

25,960 through doors of the Everyman and Playhouse.

Deborah Aydon, the theatres’ executive director, said audience numbers were up 63% on the same period last year.

She said: “The beginning of Capital of Culture year has been an absolute dream.

“We had 7,500 people who saw Three Sisters on Hope Street at the Everyman, and of those, 3,000 were first-time bookers.”

There was also success last night for Liverpool band the Wombats who won an accolade at the NME Awards last night.

Today the ECHO exclusively reveals Diana Ross is heading for the Summer Pops, while tonight Westlife will play to thousands of fans at the ECHO Arena.

If you don't want to end up with a stinking cold....

... don't go out delivering leaflets on a windy rainy day.

Feeling very sorry for myself this afternoon!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Is Melbreck Road L18...

the longest delivery street in a ward.

No, I think that distinction goes to Damwood Road in Speke.

But my aching feet are today telling me that Melbreck is very long indeed!

Enough with the beetroot!

I have a weekly delivery of organic vegetables from tne nice people at the Windmill Co operative on Smithdown Road. Its stuff that's in season and you know it's not covered in pesticides. It also saves me carrying heavy shopping.

But there is a problem.

Why on earth is there so much beetroot grown?

Every week for the last two months or so there has been one - or usually several - of these round purple things in the bag.

I've made beetroot soup (not a great success), a load of salads with beetroot as the main ingredient, and beetroot compote (OK actually)

And in a Good Housekeeping moment the other day I even located a recipe for beetroot cake (its a bit like carrot cake only messier to make)

But given that this is a vegetable I never really liked much..and that gets mess everywhere.. the march of the beetroot is just too much.

Enough please!!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Nah.. can't be bothered

Have a look at these quotes which I have pasted on.

The Ward Councillors were consulted on 2 January 2008 but none have made any comments .

Ward Councillors were consulted in May 2007 but none made any
comments on the proposals

These are two sections copied from papers about two separate issues in speke and garston on the city council executive board agenda later this month.

We are talking about issues that will have an effect on people in both Speke and Garston.

Yet this phrase - about consultation and no reply - is so common it makes me wonder whether the councillors in this area ever actually read their mail.

Or perhaps stirring themselves to represent people is a bit too much like hard work!

Virtue triumphs.. but still starving

Shot out of the house early this morning - no tea, no breakfast - to get on with some delivering. The need to get the leaflets out before the meeting which was mentioned prominently twice meant more than a leisurely hour.

I plodded on, getting hungrier and hungrier. Not a shop in sight, just doorstep after doorstep.

And then, as I bent down to deliver yet another Focus I spotted it.

A Mars bar - complete in its wrapper - lying on the step.

Clearly someone had dropped it while unloading shopping.

Salivating I pondered the ethics of picking it up and chomping through it. My stomach said yes. but unfortunately my conscience said no! The householder was amused when I knocked and pointed it out.

So virtue intact - but hunger pangs still there.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Youth Communications

Great meeting last night of the Youth Communications management committee. Youth Communications exists, among other things, to produce Youth Live magazine - which his written and edited by and for young people. Edition three will be out soon and there are loads of ideas for number four.

We're also putting more effort into the business side of the magazine - thinking about how to increase the print run and the advertising, and how to get bulk copies taken. A group at New Heys school in Garston and working on a project to help us with these plans - so maybe soon Youth Live will be a lot more promient.

We are always looking for young people who want to get involved - it could be writing or it could be helping more with the business side. If you want to know more e mail or have a look at

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Bottled water - government minister is right.

Last night's Panorama kicked off a campaign to cut down on the amount of bottled water that we drink in this country.

It is pretty astounding that so much still water is bought when you think that tap water is perfectly fine. When you think about the carbon footprint of bottling the water and then trucking it for miles, its pretty scandalous.

I can see the case for the fizzy stuff. Often you order that as an alternative to lemonade or coke. But still water?

When I go to the gym I simply fill the empty plastic bottle in my bag from the tap. Yet the machine of bottles of water does a great trade - as you can see from the bin next to it.

Phil Woolas, who is an environment minister, has been adding his support to the campaign by Friends of the Earth and others. And I have to say it is a rare case of hearing a government minister and then thinking - quite right.

FOE have identified ways that local councils can help cut down the use of bottled water. In our region apparently Manchester City Council is the biggest spender on this. Liverpool stopped spending on bottled water last year - made a small saving but more importantly helped shrink its carbon footprint.

Jobs up for grabs

I hope the information in this Echo story will get out to every community in the City.

There are going to be loads of jobs on offer at the new shopping area (Liverpool One) in town. And this way of registering once and then being informed of all the vacancies sounds like a great way to make sure people know what's on offer.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Always easier when the sun is shining.

Took an hour to pop over to Belle Vale to deliver some leaflets for Lib Dem Tommy Marshall. Loads of dogs today but what great afternoon for walking.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Cllr Bob Ousby

How sad to hear that Cllr Bob Ousby has died.

He had a stroke apparently. This followed a period of ill health including time in hospital when a car crushed his leg. But Bob carried on working for local people.

We used to see Bob struggling into the Council Chamber, or into other meetings. It clearly was a struggle, but Bob was determined to do the work he'd been electd to do.

He was one of life's gentlemen too - always ready to help or to cheer you up.

He will be really missed, by his colleagues and his constituents in Yew Tree ward.

walking round in circles

Just back from an hour or so to deliver a few leaflets for colleagues. And I do mean a few. I had one of those patches where every house is very different, most are huge and many letter boxes are not where you would expect them. You know, the sort of place where you walk for ages and are still only at number 11! And the sort of place where you walk out down one curving drive and then in the next one only to realise you are approaching the same door from a different direction. Still a nice walk and I must be a lot fitter now!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Meeting the Climate Challenge?


Saturday 16 February at 2pm...

Film Focus: Liverpool's Response to Climate Change

A special showing of Who killed the electric car? (tickets £3.50 - box office 0151 707 4450 - or on the day) in FACT Screen 3 Wood Street Liverpool 1

How are local communities, businesses, and our City's Capital of Culture activities aiming to keep the emissions down? A debate is to be kicked off by local environmentalists and others, following the showing of an acclaimed film - back at FACT by popular demand - on how global oil interests acted to hold back action on climate change, even as the UK's chief scientist described this as "the greatest threat to our planet".

Hosted by Frank Kennedy of Friends of the Earth NW and Don Thompson of Merseyside Environmental Trust.

Speakers from the Co-operative Bank, Transition Towns and Liverpool's Culture Company will open a debate on how fit Liverpool is to become a 'low carbon city' - from the perspectives of business, of an active community group and of Capital of Culture itself.

Followed by 'speed dating' chat sessions in the Bar until 4.30pm. members of the public are invited to watch the film. Extra time is promised if needed (but no penalties!)

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Exhausting problem

Today's Echo carries a report about the City Council and Merseytravel taking action against bus drivers who park up for a break with lights on and engine running - polluting parts of the City Centre as well as doing their bit to encourage climate change!

At last.

Getting a lungful of exhaust is annoying - particularly so when the bus isn't even attempting to move.

Monday, 11 February 2008

And that letterbox is where exactly???

Out on Sunday for a lengthy delivery session. But if you go out when it's that foggy... it takes a lot longer!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Operation Black Vote - Liverpool Scheme

Operation Black Vote (which despite its name is about more than voting) is running a scheme with Liverpool City Council to give people from minority ethnic communities the chance to find out a bit more about politics and getting involved in politics.

In particular, they are offering chances to shadow councillors to find out more about exactly what is involved in performing that role.

The scheme is open to people who are 18 years old or above and who consider themselves to be black or minority ethnic.

You can get informatiion from or 020 8 983 5426. The closing date is 3 March and there wil be interviews at the end of March.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

A blow to the ID card scheme? - Let's hope so.

Today sees the publication of an opinion poll commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

Not only is the majority of the population opposed to ID cards, but 25 percent are deeply opposed.

A sizeable number of people are likely to simply refuse.

So why on earth doesn't the government just recognise now that its not going to work, stop getting labour members to defend the indefensible, and just stop the scheme.

They have the power to spend the money on other things.. more police springs to mind.

I have plugged it before but...

This weekend and next, Friends of the Earth in Liverpool want people to come along to events focusing on climate change.

This Saturday and next Saturday there are events at FACT. They include a screening and environmental speed dating event (next Saturday) and a stall and filming session this Saturday.

Do go if you can. It looks like I will have to be at work though!


Congrats to the Liverpool Echo for highlighting the issue of female genital mutilation - not a subject you often read about in the press.

When I worked for the Refugee Council you would often hear about girls who had "gone away" for a while to have the (illegal) operation. I can only guess at the trauma it caused - not to mention the linked health problems.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Shut up and take your medicine!

So Alan Johnson is saying we ought to have flouride in the water supply everywhere.. and the North West health services are looking into it.

Surely there is a way of improving children's teeth that doesn't involve forced medication!

Want a House? Then Get a Job.

Today's Guardian front page sees a huge piece of signal sending by the Government.

The story, from a pre arranged interview with housing minister Caroline Flint, has them talking tough again about people on benefits. This time its those who are also in social housing who need to be taken to task. The suggestion is that if you are a tenant in "council housing" you tenancy will be conditional on your actively seeking work.


Leaving aside the fact that if you are on Job Seekers Allowance the government tells you to actively seek work anyway, what does this mean?

As far as I can see it means the government is finding a way to send another signal about benefits and welfare to two groups - those for whom the decision about whether working makes them better off is a marginal one, and that great tranche of Daily Mail readers who love nothing better than to assume everyone on benefits is involved in a sort of con.

But let's think about what Ms Fint has said in a bit more detail. She must know that there is less and less actual council housing around because government rules means that many estates are being transferred to other housing providers - housing associations and the like. These are independent bodies, some charities some not, running social housing. Are they to become agents of the state and police whether their tenants are "actively seeking work"? The core business of a housing association is to provide decent housing, to manage the estate, to collect rent, to carry out repairs. Housing officers are not benefit enforcers and shouldn't be.

But let's think about the justification here. It may be that people feel that those in accomodation which is in effect subsidised by the state in one way or another, should have an obligation to seek work so that they are paying back part of that subsidy. I don't agree but its a workable argument. But we are not talking about those in the private rented sector are we? And housing benefit is a state subsidy too.

Caroline Flint, in my Guardian story, argues that estates in which few people work actually make it less likely that others will get jobs. It affects aspirations she says (and I suspect there is truth in that). But the other thing that affects aspirations, and the likelihood of getting work, is the stigmatisation of particular areas. If you talk as if people from x estate are less likely to get a job, that will become the reality. Postcode discrimination can and does happen and we shouldn't be feeding it with ill informed comment.

There is obviously nothing wrong in social housing providers showing a broader interest in the welfare of their tenants. And there is nothing wrong in suggesting that services like job centres should be made more local and more accessible. And of course people need the transport infrastructure to get to jobs.

But in my view the Guardian story was intended to send loud warning signals. Perhaps the government ought to concentrate on helping people into work rather than frightening them and talking tough.

Are there any women out there?

The front page of todays Daily Post has a story about tunnel tolls, a big issue for people travelling between Liverpool and the Wirral.

The story is illustrated by a picture of six councillors who, as part of a meeting at Merseytravel, voted for the tolls.

The story is about the tolls - but the picture raised another issue for me.

This is a picture of six men. The quotes from non pictured councillors on Merseytravel are also from men. And in fact I know that the councillor membership of Merseytravel is heavily male dominated.

Now I don't have anything against the individuals who serve on Merseytravel - and I know that some of those from Liverpool work really hard.

But given that Merseytravel is about public transport. And given that research has shown that a public transport user is more likely to be female, surely we need a bit more representation.

Councillors are not elected onto Merseytravel directly. They are nominated within their individual councils,usually via political group elections, and sent there as representatives. Perhaps those councils, or those political groups, who are not selecting any women need to have a hard think about that.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Knotty Ash - and sunshine

Off to Knotty Ash this morning to help colleagues with their campaigning. A dog free session - and after yesterday what a relief that the sun came out!

Friday, 1 February 2008

South Liverpool youth festival needs bands

Acts wanted for HUB

The UK's biggest urban youth festival has launched a search for the best bands to star in one of the highlights of Liverpool's European Capital of Culture celebrations.

HUB - the biggest free festival of its kind - annually takes place at Otterspool Promenade, Liverpool - and is expected to attract up to 20,000 people on 17-18 May.

And event organisers are inviting the best musicians from indie to funk, rock to soul, hip-hop to metal to send in a demo which could see them starring on its live music stage.

Successful bands will earn themselves a slot at the festival, joining confirmed headliner Shlomo, one of the world's finest human beatboxers.

Susan Whitehead, Event organiser from the Liverpool Culture Company, said: "Whether you're rappers or rockers, speed metallers or soul divas, we want to hear from you. Judges will be looking for acts with heaps of energy, style and passion. Only the best talent will be selected to play at what promises to be a wicked weekend."

Councillor Warren Bradley, Leader of Liverpool City Council and Deputy Chairman of Liverpool Culture Company, added: "This is a fantastic opportunity for bands and artists to perform live, in an incredible atmosphere, in front of thousands of people at one of the biggest and best urban youth festivals in the country.''

Bands have until Monday 25 February to apply with a biography, a completed artists' contact form and a demo. A panel of music industry professionals will judge all applications and choose their favourites to play at the event. Successful bands/artists will be notified by Monday 10 March.

Application forms can be downloaded from or requested by emailing (Please type 'HUB' in the subject field of your email.)

The HUB festival, now into its sixth year, was established by Liverpool Culture Company during the city's successful '08 culture bid. It celebrates a vibrant mix of urban art, music and extreme sports including skateboarding, BMX, in-line skating, breakdancing and body popping.

Climate change events in Liverpool

A plug for events being organised by Liverpool Friends of the Earth this month.

There is one next Saturday (the 9th) an another the following Saturday at the FACT Centre.

Details posted below. Do come along to one or both if you can.


Join The Big Ask On-Line March! In and around FACT

Join Jude Law, KT Tunstall and your mates in a virtual march to act on climate change! A free filming session to place your own mini-blog on Friends of the Earth's climate website.

Have your say – log on – see yourself! See

A crew from tenantspin ( FACT's and Arena Housing's pioneering community TV station will be around the FACT building from 11am – 1pm and 2 – 3.30pm collecting interviews with members of the public for the Big Ask which will then be uploaded to the mini-blog.


Film Focus: Liverpool's Response to Climate Change

A special showing of Crude Awakening (tickets £3.50*)

in FACT Screen 3

Followed by 'speed dating' chat sessions in the Bar.

How are local communities, businesses, and our City's Capital of Culture activities aiming to keep the emissions down? Hosted by Frank Kennedy of Friends of the Earth NW. Speakers from a business, a community group and the City itself will mix it with the rest of us until 4.30pm. Extra time if needed (no penalties!)

Before and after – spot yourself on film! The Big Ask web footage from last Saturday will be projected in the bar.

*FACT box office: 0151 707 4450

Vulnerable children to be forced home??

A story in the Independent today says the Home Office is talking about forcibly deporting asylum seekers who are under 18.

In other words, forcibly putting children on planes to go back to war zones.

We are not talking about a family group here - but children who are on their own. One of the most vulerable groups there can be.

I am at a loss as to why the government is looking at this. Unaccompanied refugee minors are a tiny proportion of those seeking asylum.

I remember when I worked at the Refugee Council the very special needs and very difficult problems faced by some of this small group.

I've pasted below some comments from the story in the Independent.

Let's hope the Government thinks again about this

But Lisa Nandy, policy adviser for the Children's Society, warned: "This will cause great distress and suffering to many who have fled torture, war and poverty and runs contrary to the Government's aspiration to keep these children safe."

Dame Mary Marsh, chief executive of the children's charity, the NSPCC, said: "The Government appears to be turning its back on children who have been separated from their families and who may have suffered trauma or persecution."

She added: "The majority of these children will be alone, frightened and unable to speak English and therefore powerless to explain why their safety depends on remaining in the UK. Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "The Government should not try to force any child to return against their wishes where their safety and welfare cannot be guaranteed. These are not children who come here seeking a better life, with their families waiting for them in peaceful homes. Many of them are children from war zones."

Standing in

Helped out at one of the councillors surgeries this week.

It's a while since I have done this. when I lost my seat in May I went from doing two surgeries a week to doing none.

At the time I had wondered about the efficiency of doing so many and of choosing those times. As more and more people prefer to get in touch by phone, letter and (increasingly) e mail, I had wondered whether there was in fact a decreasing demand for face to face surgeries. I actually started an analysis of the types of issues, numbers of people etc. I wanted to survey the best times, the best venues and the best frequency for surgeries. As a councillor you need to make sure that what you are doing is genuinely meeting needs rather than just following a pattern.

This week's experience showed that although fewer people use sugeries and there is less demand, there will always be a need.

Some people simply prefer to come at an advertised time and talk face to face. Others (and this was very clear this week) want to show documents.

It feels a little wrong to say that I found listening to people's problems satisfying, but helping out this week, meeting people, taking up issues, suggesting solutions etc reminded me of what I had enjoyed about being a councillor. Not all problems can be solved, and it's upsetting when that happens, but some can and that is really rewarding.