Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Cabinet in Liverpool

Today's Daily Post carries a story about the Cabinet meeting in Liverpool early next month, plus a rather po faced comment from Downing Street saying that when they have something to announce they will. Err.. this publicity stunt has been well telegraphed for several weeks now. The local voluntary sector network has been e mailing its members asking for nominations for individuals to come and meet ministers after the meeting (hardly a big secret then). I fully appreciate the need to keep venues secret but for goodness sake I can't see any reason why Downing Street can't confirm what thousands of e mail recipients already know.

I wonder what the purpose of such an "out of London" meeting can be. If government ministers truly want to visit Cities outside London they can. There is no need to move a whole meeting - plus all the officials. After all the inside of one room looks pretty much like the inside of another. From a purely PR point of view also I would have thought the benefits to Labour of ministerial visits are better if they are spread out (thereby achieving repetition) rather than all on one go. And I would expect opposition politicians to keep a good eye on any spending that appears party political rather than ministerial.

Delivering in Kensington

Went out with PPC Colin Eldridge the other day to do some post Christmas deliveries in Kensington. A lovely bright day. A tad on the cold side but felt very virtuous at having worked off a bit of the Christmas food. Having helped in this part of Liverpool several times now I couldn't help but notice that the regeneration which has been going on for several years seems to have made some impact now. New homes for sale, some of which are occupied already, and some rennovation work on terraces.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Crisis Loans

What on earth was the government doing at the weekend? First we are told the people getting crisis loans are going to have to pay interest. Then we are told this is somehow protecting them from loan sharks. Then we are told it is just out to consultation and might not happen. Then we are told the government aren't going to do it anyway.

It's clear to me that there is/was a plan to get social fund crisis loans paid back with interest. Its also clear that there was such a revolt against this that some poor Junior Minister had to do the rounds talking the story down.

Lets be clear about this. Crisis loans are for the very poorest who have a crisis. Interest is completely out of the question.

And the way to avoid bad colds....

.. is not to persist in delivering Xmas cards in the rain!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Nice to be thanked

I was up early this morning to deliver a huge load of Xmas cards (we deliver the whole ward every year which sounds like a nice idea until its cold and dark and rainy). Trudging round feeling very sorry for myself I was stopped by a lady who had spotted me and come out of the house deliberately to say thank you for some case work I had done for her son a while ago. (Her son doesn't live in the ward). Its really nice when people bother to say thank you. It made me feel a little less grumpy about getting soaked while delivering!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Garston Waste plans meeting

Now that the applicants have withdrawn the application (temporarily) this meeting has been cancelled. This decision was taken at rather short notice. I have asked planning officers to write to those people who had letters from me about the meeting and I understand various e mails have also gone out. I don't 100 percent agree with the meeting being cancelled but I can see that it will be hard to provide proper answers when the application is off the table and the timescales are impossible to know. Given the short notice of cancellation, we have asked a rep from planning to go the venue to speak to anyone who doesn't hear about the cancellation and so who turns up anyway (as there is nothing worse than turning up to find no one there and no explanation).

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Garston waste application - update

I have just received a letter from agents acting on behalf of Jack Allen - the company making the application for the waste facility at Garston Dock. The application is being withdrawn.

This doesn't mean it has gone away however as I am told an application will be re submitted following some public consultation next year. There's no way of knowing at the moment whether this is a means of buying time in order to run a persuasion campaign or whether local views are genuinely being sought.

Obviously the public meeting scheduled for the 15th was organised before this news. If this news affects the speakers planned for the public meeting I will post an update.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Garston waste plans meeting

Date, venue, time confirmed. Scroll to earlier entry for details.

Neil Trafford Memorial Celebration

Congratulations to everyone who organised the very moving memorial celebration at Manchester Town Hall yesterday. The amount of care that had gone into this, and the range of people speaking or taking part in readings, showed just how loved Neil was and how much he will be missed. There were a large number of Lib Dems there - and not just from the North West either - which shows how many people wanted to come and pay tribute.

We all knew Neil in different ways for different reasons. I knew him as a regional campaigner and staff member who helped hugely in Liverpool. But what struck me was all the other parts of his life that were talked about too. I guess that just reinforces the fact that we all have different facets to our lives.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Overview and Scrutiny Committee

One of the select committees I attend in my exec member role is Overview and Scrutiny which took place this Tuesday just gone. To be fair its not the most "public friendly" of committees as a lot of what we talk about is process. Process is important though and a lot of my work revolves around that - not what we do as a council but how we do it if you like. We talked about Freedom of Information. A bit of a backlog on dealing with this has built up for various reasons, including someone being sick. I am glad to say I am on the case with this and it is being sorted. Ironically I have just had a rather overdue reply from the Waste Disposal Authority to one of my FOI requests. I actually understand why it took the time it did so didn't kick up a huge fuss. I suspect though that the average person won't understand delays on FOI requests and there is a lot of education to do about the system and how it works.

Liverpool Commission

Last week saw the second meeting of the Liverpool Commission. Its hard to explain in a nutshell what this is, but basically its an independent body which will take evidence and make recommendations re aspects of democracy in Liverpool. We are looking at things like the barriers to entry for those wanting to become a councillor (and hope for significant business sector involvement in that), support needs of councillors, motivations to stand of existing and former councillors, types of meetings etc. We are one of nine councils - exemplar councils they are called - rolling out this process although not everywhere is treating it the same way we are.
There are two elected councillors on this body and I am one of them. I am also sort of responsible in my cabinet role. Information about the commission's meetings, which do take place in public, is available on the council's website - (look for the section on councillors, meetings and agendas).

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Garston waste plans update - meeting confirmed

The public meeting I referred to in an earlier post is now confirmed and will take place on 15 December at 6 30 at the Bridge Chapel Centre on Heath Road. This will be a good chance to ask questions of planning officials - something not possible at previous meetings. The Waste Disposal Authority also plan to be there (although it must be made clear that this planning application is not theirs it is a private application by a commercial company). It is possible that the applicant will be there also - although I suspect no one's minds will be changed.

The deadline for objections has gone but planning officers assure me that if anyone wants to send in an objection or further material as a result of information from this meeting, they will be able to. There is no date yet for a planning committee meeting so it looks like we are looking at January.

I'd be really grateful if interested people could pass this information on. I have just put a load of letters in the post about this but it is impossible for me to write to everyone who may be interested in time to give them lots of notice.