Monday, 30 June 2008

Site visit

I've organised a site visit tomorrow - getting council officers, a police rep and hopefully some residents together to look at a problem in part of the ward. In fact I am just back from delivering letters to residents in the immediate area inviting them to the visit. Sometimes problems can be solved without organising something like this - but in this case you really need to see the physical set up to understand the issue. This particular problem is just off Aigburth Road - but I'll blog again about it when we have made a bit more progress.

Youth Live - we're celebrating!

The 4th edition of Youth Live magazine is out. And we are celebrating later this week with an event at Merseyside Youth Association.

It's a year since edition one (give or take a day or so) so we will be sampling a special birthday cake as well as celebrating our success to date.

I say our success - but frankly it's all about the young people who have written, researched, commissioned, designed etc. And our fantastic volunteers. And of course Richard who does most of the work while sharing much of the credit!

We've sent out quite a few invitations to the celebration so we're hoping for a good turnout.

After all,a lot of people talk about giving young people a voice. This magazine project is actually doing that.

More information about Youth Live and the Youth Communications Network is available at If you want to get involved, or in touch - please do.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Groups in Speke Garston to lose out - thanks to Labour!!

Today sees the launch of the Councillors Community Initiative Fund. This is basically a ward based fund that local councillors either do or don't agree to create. Local groups can bid for money from the fund depending on where they are based. That's the good news.

The bad news is that if you are a group in Speke/Garston there is no fund for you!

This strange state of affairs is a direct result of action, or inaction, by Labour's Councillors in the ward.

The fund money comes from the cash already allocated to wards as part of the Neighbourhood Fund. Councillors were asked if they wanted to put aside money from this for a pot that local groups could bid in to. Not all wards were able to do this. Some for example had virtually no Neighbourhood Fund to allocate. A few had alread committed their money. But most had enough to enable them to decide to free some up.

In Cressington, we decided to allocate £5,000 and we very much hope local organisations will have some great ideas about how they would want to spend some of this.

In Speke Garston however the Councillors have allocated a great big nothing. So despite being allocated the most money in the City, they are not even able to put aside a few thousand for local charities and voluntary groups.

Next time I hear Labour talk about the need to help local organisations I will be bearing this example in mind!

Corporate Services Committee

Last night was the first time I had been to Corporate Services Committee. Executive Members go to the Select Committee that is most relevant to their area. As my portfolio is rather new and has quite vague boundaries, I go to two Select Committees - this one and Overview and Scrutiny.

Last night's meeting was an eye opener about a lot of areas of work - although in some cases there was great news.

What stood out for me was the work done by the people in the Benefits Maximisation Team. They have been helping Liverpool people get the benefits they are entitled to and so making a real difference to some of the poorest of our citizens.

It still worries me though that there are people who don't claim because there is some feeling that claiming is stigmatising. A bit of a short chat about how we can deal with that and I am confident that the team will be doing more to target this type of non-claimant in future.

When you're doing casework - take a mac!!

On the way to the office this morning I decided to walk across part of my ward to have a look at an issue which may need dealing with. Like many environmental topics, its one thing talking about it, but a whole other thing seeing for yourself. So I thought a quick stroll would help me understand whether action is needed or not. Well the thing I went to look at may not be a problem, although I managed to find a few other problems en route. But no sooner had I got there but the heavens opened and I got absolutely drenched. Gritting my teeth I told myself it was in a good cause! Memo to self - either take a raincoat or an umbrella in future.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Full Council - motion on deaf people and TV licence fees.

Yesterday was the deadline for submitting motions for the next full council meeting of Liverpool City Council. This is a copy of the one I sent in, written jointly with Colin Eldridge, another Lib Dem Councillor in Liverpool.
Council notes the recognition given by the Government to British Sign Language.

Council notes that those deaf people who are deaf from birth may have BSL as their primary language. Council notes the existence of a deaf community in Liverpool as well as the existence of deaf organisations for which the use of BSL is crucial.

Council notes that although there is an increasing amount of subtitling on British TV (which is to be welcomed), there are few programmes that carry BSL interpretation. While subtitling meets the needs of some deaf or hard-of-hearing people, it does not meet the needs of all.

Council notes that in order to recognise the restricted benefit of TV to blind people, blind people receive a 50 per cent reduction in the price of a TV license (which covers the cost of both TV and radio). There is however no similar reduction for deaf people who, even if they are satisfied with subtitling, clearly cannot benefit from radio.

Council therefore supports the campaign for a reduction in TV license fees for deaf people and agrees to lobby the government, through relevant ministers, on this subject.


The new(ish) rules for Council mean that only a few of the motions sent in will actually be picked for debate on the night. The others will be referred to different parts of the Council. So this may well not be debated. The campaign for a reduction in TV license fees makes loads of sense though and I hope we can find other ways of pursuing this too.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Africa Oye

Went to Sefton Park on Saturday to the annual Africa Oye festival. Despite the weather, which must have put some people off coming at the beginning, it was a great event with some fantastic music and great stalls (I did a bit of shopping before coming home). Obviously it's too late to decide to go now - but I really do recommend this for next year.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Licensing Committee - Grassendale garage decision

I spent much of today at the Licensing Committee. I have blogged already about my frustration with the system. But more important for local residents I suspect is the result of the committee hearing.

The committee, which is made up of three Councillors, was deciding whether or not to give a license to sell alcohol to the BP garage on the corner of Grassendale Road and Aigburth Road.

There were a lot of objections from local people and some significant comments from the police. All three Cressintgon Councillors - that's me, Peter Millea and Richard Oglethorpe - were there to represent the residents.

After a long hearing and a lengthy period of deliberations (which we couldn't be in the room for) we were told that the committee was refusing the application. There is a right of appeal, but the applicant had (fairly I thought) decided not to go down this road. So there will be no off license on this site - which I imagine is a relief to the large number of people who took the trouble to write in or to phone or e mail on the subject.

I am pleased at the result - still frustrated with the process though!

Skateboarding and BMX

Some time ago a group of young people came to my councillors' surgery to talk about the need for somewhere they could do to use skateboards and BMX bikes. At the time we got them involved in a group of young people looking at what needed to be provided. Some time has gone by since then, but the good news is that the City Council is now having a serious look at what's needed in terms of a permanent site (obviously temporary ones are set up for the HUB festival). There's a consultation going on and I would really urge anyone interested - parents and grandparents as well as young people - to have their say. This link takes you to a story about the subject and a link to a form. All the views have to be in by the end of July.

Licensing law - enough to drive you mad!

I spent much of the day today at the Licensing Committee. I'll post about the actual issue and result in another post but I have never been to such a frustrating meeting in my life. And it's all to do with national laws which must have been written without thought to the consequences.

If you are a local councillor, and there is a planning application in your ward that you want to comment on, you can. You turn up to the committee and ask to speak. I have often done that, particularly to try to prevent harmful developments or ask for changes to plans. You don't always win, but at least you can try.

If however there is a licensing application in your ward and you want to go to the licensing committee and speak - tough luck. According to the law the only people who can speak in that way are the applicants, the police rep and local residents who live within a certain distance of the application. The only way a local councillor can actually represent people is by getting a resident to write a letter including authorisation. Even then you are pretty much limited to the content of the letter itself, which has obviously been written without knowledge of any arguments that might be made on the day.

So if an argument is made by an applicant, or anyone else, and you want to challenge it - you can't.

I sat in Licensing for much of today actually seething because there were so many points I wanted to make and statements I wanted to challenge.

This isn't a party political thing either. Most councillors who want to represent their wards find this system equally stiffling. Let's hope these rules get changed by the government - and pronto.

South Liverpool District Committee

Last night saw the first meeting of the District Committee covering our area. It's made up of councillors, officers and representatives of partners from Speke/Garston, Belle Vale, Cressington, Allerton and Hunts Cross, Woolton and Mossley Hill.

Last night was really a "setting up" meeting. We have four working groups set up to make progress on different themes that have been identified as important. Most of the actual "work" will be done in those.

I am going to Chair the group looking at safer, stronger communities.
Flo Clucas is chairing economic development and enterprise. Richard Oglethorpe will chair the group looking at issues around children and young people.

We nominated a Labour Councillor to chair the group on health and older people. She wasn't actually at the committee last night so I hope that this surprise will actually be a welcome one!

The district committee is part of the arrangements that replace the old neighbourhood committees. I wasn't on the City Council when this decision was taken and I have to admit I have some reservations about the changes. But then one of the tasks I have set myself as exec member is to organise a review of all of this after the system has been running for a while.

Monday, 16 June 2008

They're everywhere!

The customised Superlambananas are out in force!

Even on a short walk through part of Liverpool today I came across nine different ones!

Producing these replicas with designs tied in to organisations is a great way of getting a lot more public art out there.

Some of the designs are very much tied into the organisation involved. The one outside the register office has confetti designs for example.

Whoever had this idea needs huge congratulations

Liverpool International Tennis Tournament

More people should know about this tournament! It's a rare chance to see a lot of tennis without travelling out of the City - and some of the stars of the future were on show.

I went on two days - last Thursday and yesterday. It all took part in Calderstones Park. The women's singles finals yesterday was particularly good with the runner up last year winning this year after a pretty closely matched contest.

What I liked best about the tournament though was the very organised way in which groups of school children are involved. They get to see chunks of the matches, but also to take part in some tennis and games themselves. Liverpool has a massive tennis training programme and already has some home grown potential stars.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Dog free delivering

Well what's a political activist to do on a nice day like today but go delivering?

Off to Kensington first and then over to Knotty Ash.

And although there clearly were lots of dogs around, none of them got their gnashers anywhere near my digits.


Sex and the City was.....

SOOO disappointing.

Nice clothes and scary shoes.. but a less predictable plot would have been nice!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Abdullah Quilliam Society events

The Abdullah Quilliam Society have a range of events this month which should be well worth going to. I went to one of their recent lectures and it was really informative and very thought provoking. I always feel that I ought to know more about Islam and its history in the City, and this is one way of doing that.

Anyway, there is an exhibition until 22 June at the Picton Library, which is upstairs in the Central Library on William Brown Street. There are also a couple more lectures - both at 6 39 at the John Foster Building of JMU on Mount Pleasant.

If you need information the number is 0151 709 6567.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Alleygates are great unless......

... they are left open all the time.

A group of residents came to the surgery the other day to point out that they were getting no security from the alleygates at two entrances to a T shaped alley because the gates were almost always left open. Everyone understands the need to have gates open for a few minutes for deliveries etc - but no one wants them propped wide open all day long. Not only does it completly ruin the security reason why they are there, it also invites the odd bit of flytipping. Anyway yesterday some polite letters went out to people living alongside the alley, including some businesses which back on to it. Hopefully this will make a difference.

Monday, 9 June 2008

House names

Henley constituency is a place of house names. Some are very amusing.

The first Tory poster I saw was in "Bleak House".

Nuff said!

Henley by election

We spent the weekend in Thame to help out in the Henley by election campaign.

A great place to be helping out - very organised front desk again, friendly helpers.

We bumped into the candidate while delivering one of the roads in the centre of Thame. He told us that the LD campaign was having a lot of impact. Certainly the choice by the Tories of a local councillor, when the local council appears to be slated over its performance, may be a faux pas.

Obviously by election junkies will go anyway! But if you are looking for a bit of campaigning, and a bit of a break also, Oxford is a short bus ride from Thame.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Field of Women event coming up

A quick plug for the Field of Women event on 6th July. This is text from the latest newsletter. I appear to have lost some of the links but you can find out more by e mailing

“Imagine all the people”

Field of Women - Liverpool Cricket Ground on Sunday 6 July, 2008 - REGISTER NOW to be a part of the largest breast cancer support group ever seen in the UK.


Thank you to everyone who has registered so far - but we still need people to sign up for the event.

We need your help to make Field of Women the most impactful and emotional breast cancer event ever seen in the UK. Click on LUCY below to register now!


Remember that Field of Women is open to all - including men and children and we're delighted to report that around 1 in every 8 sign ups is male!


Consultant breast surgeon Anne Tansley and members of The Linda McCartney Centre team launched our Field of Women branded taxis.

There are three taxis in our colours so keep your eyes peeled!

A big thanks also goes to Merseyside taxi driver Neil Richards who has brought together the 'cabbie community' to raise awareness of Field of Women.

Neil said: "Around 2000 Hackney carriages will be displaying a Field of Women sticker and actively talking to customers about it. We want to make a difference a see those 10,000 people come together."


Former Bond girl Shannon Ledbetter has joined our growing list of Field of Women supporters.

Reverend Dr Shannon, who wore a £250,000 PVC dress in the film Tomorrow Never Dies, is now a curate at St Mary's in Knowsley village, Liverpool.

Shannon has prepared a prayer in advance of Field of Women and is encouraging all faiths - as well as the 1250 churches across Merseyside - to pray for those affected by breast cancer and attend the Field of Women event.

The prayer is available at


Stars and supporters have come together to create LUCY’s Song, the official song of Field of Women.

Inspired by words from the LUCY committee, the tracks features the talents of international stars such as Deep Purple’s Roger Glover and Neighbours' actor Alan Fletcher, as well as local artists and committee members.

The song will be available to download from iTunes from June 30th.


More than 75 budding artists/bands entered our competition to win the chance to perform in front of 10,000 people at the Field of Women event.

The final 10 acts will perform in a live final on 7th June at the Cavern Club.

A panel of judges, including our chair Gary Millar, will decide the 1st and 2nd prize winners with 3rd place chosen by the live audience.

To buy tickets for the live final contact the field of women team 0151 706 3153.


We are proud to announce the winners of the Make Loot 4 LUCY challenge.

Oldershaw School on the Wirral won two of the three categories - 'Most Money' and 'Most Publicity'.

Their impressive campaign raised £1,198.23 for Field of Women and even worked with their local Labour MP Angela Eagle to get a picture of Prime Minister Gordon Brown holding a LUCY cut out!

St. Hilda's CE School in Liverpool took the prize for 'Most Creative Ideas' which included flying a LUCY branded pink aeroplane across our skies - great work!


Danielle Lloyd recently took part in 'Celebrity Gladiators' in aid of The Linda McCartney Centre. Danielle is a great support of ours having raised over £100,000 so far.

The programme is scheduled to air in the Autumn so tune in to find out how she gets on!


You can reach the Field of Women team by calling 0151 706 3172 or emailing


For more information on this newsletter contact Weber Shandwick

Garston Urban Village Hall

This is the text of a letter which started going out yesterday to people living near the Village Hall on Banks Road. I'm posting it here because I suspect there are people who will be interested but who don't live in the immediate area. I have taken off the officers' contact details as it is probably not fair on them - but if anyone wants me to pass on e mail enquiries, please e mail me at my council e mail which is and I will pass it on.

Dear Resident,

Garston Urban Village Hall, Banks Road, L19

Following the public meeting last night, I would like to explain certain issues that I understand were raised. Some important principles need to be clearly understood:

 Liverpool City Council has no intention of taking over the Village Hall but we are willing to step in to run the facility on a short term basis while a reconstituted Trust is created;

 The building is already owned the Garston Urban Village Hall Trust, it has been since it was built;

 The City Council’s intention is that a new Trust will still own the building;

 The Garston Urban Village Hall Trust has managed the building to date;

 It is absurd to suggest that the Hall would be demolished to provide funds for the City Council, this will not happen;

 The City Council has been asked to pay the outstanding electricity bills but was not party to incurring them;

 The City Council cannot be expected to pay debts incurred by other organisations when they have overspent, even charitable trusts. The electricity bill is a small part of the current financial problems at the Hall.

The City Council is committed to keep the Hall open and I want you to be as well informed as possible about the current position.

Please see overleaf

The City Council has, for some months, been working with the Village Hall Company, who currently manage the Hall, to try to develop a plan that will improve the facilities offered and will support the Hall for many years to come. We are still working towards these improvements but there are operational and financial difficulties that we are not in a position to overcome without change.

The City Council has offered to step in and keep services running until a new long term management arrangement can be established and put in place. We are committed to do this but it can only happen with the agreement of the Village Hall Company. This agreement must be in place before Friday 6 June 2008 because notice has been given by the power company that it will disconnect the electricity from the Village Hall on that day.

The City Council has twice managed to have disconnection postponed but we will not be able to do that again this week. If the power is disconnected, the Hall would have to temporarily close and this what we want to avoid.

If we can agree in time to the City Council taking up temporary management, then we aim to avoid disruption to the activities that take place at the Hall and the service provided by the GP surgery and Pharmacy. We also intend to hand over the management of the Village Hall to a newly created organisation that incorporates community members as soon as that can be achieved. In coming weeks, we plan to fully consult across the community about the best way to take this forward.

Garston Urban Village Hall provides a valuable local service for the Garston area and the City Council is fully committed to work with partners to secure a long term future for the facility. We are working hard to achieve the best possible outcome for local residents and we welcome your support.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

So he's done it..

So, after a month of trying to be Mayor of London and MP for Henley, Boris is stepping down as MP for Henley. Having taken his Henley constituents for granted for quite some time (campaigning in London means you are not in Henley!) he has hung on for long enough for the Tories to select their candidate for the by election, which looks to be late june.

We clearly had foresight when we planned our trip from Liverpool to Henley this weekend to help in the campaign!

Neighbour in the papers

This lady is clearly very calm. She runs the little newsagent near my house and I was in there this morning to pick up a paper.

Councillors' training

One of the areas I am now responsible for in my portfolio at the City Council is training and support for elected councillors. So I went to a training session with two hats on last night. The session, for newly elected councillors (and I am sort of that) was on equal opportunities. I wanted to benefit from the training as an individual, but also see at first hand the sort of training we were offering.

The good news was that this was a really good, thought provoking session. The bad news was that, out of the new councillors, there were only four of us there (myself and Gary Millar from the Lib Dems and Richard McLinden and Brian Dowling for Labour). (To be fair I ought to say that the new Green Councillor did try to attend but there were timing issues). It is bad news for those who weren't able to be there as it was a surprisingly good session and not the usual trot through the legislation. Hopefully we can find a way of offering this again.

But it raises a question of timing. I suspect that when you are very new you are trying to sort out all sorts of balancing acts to do with the rest of your life - so perhaps training for new people needs to be not quite so soon after the election (apart from the really basic need to know stuff). There is also the question of how much training people actually need or want. I love training as you always pick up something new but others may see this as a chore and we need to explore whether that is the case.

Anyway Josie Mullen (assistant exec member)and I will be looking at this as one of our priority areas this year.

Up the alley!!

I don't usually go wandering round the back of other people's houses - but I did last night. A group of residents at the surgery on Monday described a situation which is causing a lot of grief to them and others, but there is nothing like going out and having a look at it for yourself. So if you saw a strange woman peering at a pile of rubbish - it was me!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


Last night was my turn to do the Councillors' surgery for Cressington ward. I was kept very busy! Lots of issues to sort out, or attempt to sort out so I'll be spending part of today following up. We hold the surgery in a venue very near the boundary with another ward so not everyone coming along is actually from Cressington. My attitude though is to deal with the problem if I can rather than refer people on. It's not fair to delay, particularly if they have made a journey.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Busy Saturday

Off reasonably early on Saturday to do a home visit as part of some casework I am dealing with. Sometimes issues come up that are much better discussed face to face - and this was one of those. I'm now waiting for replies to various e mails I have sent out on this one.

Straight onto the bus after my visit and across to Childwall to help deliver leaflets. And this time it was someone else who was bitten by the dog!