Thursday, 31 January 2008

I'm through.. not sure if it's good news

I passed my audition for another go at Mastermind!


I am now revising my first "special subject" which is the TV comedy show Seinfeld (sadly neglected by the BBC which, when it showed it at all, managed to put it on at a variety of times after Newsnight)

Standing room only

A not very prominent story in yesterdays local press repeated the fact that the government has blocked a move to get extra coaches on the mail line train route between Liverpool and London.

Now I know this suggestion was partly to do with Virgin wanting to make sure they got the franchise again when it's up. So it's not an altruistic act!

But by blocking this the government has made sure it will continue to be difficult to travel on that route. Put quite simply it is overcrowded and you sometimes end up standing or sitting on the floor.

We keep hearing that people should be encouraged to swap to public transport - but this means nothing if every time the government makes a decision it pushes people the other way.

(Incidentally another story in the press yesterday talked of extra carriages in a few years time for trains to Manchester - plus ca change)

UPDATE: and now it seems virgin is refusing to co operate with the new carriages scheme anyway. This is what you get when we have a mad rail system like this. BR may have had its faults, but I can't see that this lot of squabbling companies and organisations are delivering the transport service we need.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Funders Fair in Liverpool

I've copied details of this Funders Fair below - it looks like a really good opportunity for voluntary groups in Liverpool to go along and find out more. There's an e mail contact right at the bottom!

An invitation to
Liverpool Funders Fair
7 March 2008

Come and meet a wide range of funders of
the voluntary sector in Liverpool.
Free and all under one roof !

Find out about latest funding programmes from
Big Lottery Fund, Children in Need,
Lloyds TSB Foundation, Arts Council
and other well known local and national funders.

Ask the questions you need answering
Get ideas to help you meet your funding needs
There will be a choice of workshops that will examine key aspects of a good funding application.
Workshop 1: “Outcomes – making them SMART”
Workshop 2: Evidence of Need

How can the Liverpool Funders Fair help your group?
The Funders Fair will give you an opportunity to find out about a wide range of funding programmes and discuss details with staff from the funders.
You can choose to attend one of the practical funding workshops that will look at some key aspects of a funding application. Places in the workshops are limited so please tell us which one you wish to attend.

How long is the event ?
Half a day (see booking form for times). You can book onto the morning or the afternoon event (but not both, as the afternoon is a repeat of the morning).

How many places are there?
There are only 200 places (100 in morning and 100 in afternoon).
Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis and there is only one place per organisation available. You must return the form to book a place.

Where will it take place?
LACE Conference Centre, Croxteth Drive, Sefton Park, Liverpool L17 1AA.
There is plenty of free parking. We will send detailed directions to all who book.

What will be provided?
Funder information – Workshop handouts and follow-up notes
LCVS Services details
Free refreshments (Lunch is not provided)
Liverpool Funders Fair Booking Form
LACE Conference Centre, Sefton Park, Liverpool
7 March 2008

Name: ________________________________________________
Organisation: __________________________________________
Address: ______________________________________________
Telephone No: ______________ Mobile: _____________________
E-mail address: _________________________________________
Please tick which session you would prefer to attend (tick one only):
Morning session (9.30 – 12.30)

Afternoon session (1.30 – 4.30 )

Workshop places are limited, so you will be able to attend just one of them. Please put a 1 in the box for your first choice, and 2 for your second choice :

“Outcomes – making them SMART” by Big Lottery

“Where is the evidence?” How to show evidence of need.

Please specify below any additional requirements (e.g. access, loop system)

Please post the form to
Chris Newall, Liverpool CVS, FREEPOST NWW7994A, Liverpool L2 6BR
e-mail it to or fax on 258 1153
Remember ! Limited places - First Come, First Served

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

What's consultation for then?

The list of post office closures just out after the supposed "consultation" phase makes me wonder exactly what that consultation consisted of. Last year there was a list of proposed closures. In a huge number of cases there were active local campaigns, huge petitions and so on, to argue the case for specific post offices. Of the ones I know about directly, I know people were working to save the ones in Aigburth Road and Thurne Way in Liverpool and the Bailey's Lane one in Halewood. And I have read press coverage about campaigns to save others. Yet by the looks of it one has been saved, there is no news yet on a further two, and all the rest - nearly 40 - are to go. In one case I helped collect signatures, standing outside mid afternoon one day. The outlet was amazingly busy and in a parade of shops which also had a lot of traffic. And yet this one is to go. It makes me wonder exactly what sort of an argument would cause a change of mind.

another funding opportunity

a quick plug for a source of funding for local groups involved in sport.

This is from a Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services e mail
From LCVS Funding Advisers

Sport Relief fund has just re-opened in Merseyside and Halton, the
deadline for applications is 28 March 2008.

Grants available from £1000 to £5000

To be eligible for a grant, your proposed activity must aim to meet one
or more of these objectives:

* Increasing access to sport and exercise for people who face
social exclusion and isolation.

* Help people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives to
regain confidence and self-esteem

Ged Simpson and Ian Morland
LCVS Funding Advisers
236 7728

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

another dog free session

Another delivery session at the weekend... and no dog bites.

Perhaps the canine population of Liverpool realise all the decent fingers have already been chewed!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Liverpool - the Musical

Last night I was at the new Liverpool Arena for the second part of the Capital of Culture Opening Ceremony - Liverpool the Musical.

A great mix of music, acrobatics and visuals. The Wombats in particular were really good - and I am amazed at the courage of the acrobats who climbed up and down ropes as if they were just a gentle slope.

This Arena is going to be such an asset to Liverpool. Looking through the list of events planned, some are already sold out.

Microchips for offenders?

I thought at first the story in the Independent on Sunday today was a piece of satire. The government looking into microchipping offenders??!!

Like cats or dogs.

Treat people like animals and don't be surprised if they respond in kind.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Capital of Culture kicks off officially

Last night was the opening ceremony for Capital of Culture Year - music, fireworks, acrobatics, light shows - all on and around St Georges Hall. Thousands of people there - and from what I have seen, some great news coverage. I know that, despite what we living here have seen of positive change, the image of the City in other parts of the UK is not always good (negative stereotypes take a long time to disappear). Hopefully the ceremony coverage, and all the fantastic things coming this year, will hope change some of those preconceptions and bring many more people to visit us.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Do they want us to use public transport then???

First major grumble of 2008.

Last week, on my first day at work of the New Year, I went to the station to renew my season ticket.

A simple task you'd think.

But no. Merseytravel had, in their wisdom, decided that the ticket I used - the TrioPlus - was to be no more.

The decision, whatever the reasoning behind it, was put into effect with literally no publicity.

So not only is there a decision to dump a season ticket in a way which will force some of us public transport users to spend a lot more money - it is a decision which is kept secret!

I spoke to one of my former council colleagues about this. Peter Millea leads the Lib Dem group on Merseytravel. He told me there had been a discussion and vote on this. The Lib Dems had wanted to keep the season ticket. The other parties had not. He was as annoyed as I was that there had been no publicity and I believe the fact that there has now (yesterday) been a quick mention of this is down to his intervention.

But whatever the rights and wrongs of the lack of publicity - surely it can't be right to dump a public transport option just like that. I am told that buying an alternative ticket will save me money. And yes it will - if I decide not to use the bus! Given that the point of my ticket was that I needed to use buses and trains and wanted the flexibility that it was designed to provide, there is no way I am anything but worse off as a result of this.

And this at a time when we positively want to encourage more use of public transport and when the bus figures show a drop off in use.

Arena visit

Still recovering from a bug which laid me low for most of the holiday break - so hardly any blogging to date.

Illness also meant I've been less than active - but I did manage to get along to the new Arena and Convention Centre on Friday for the sneak preview for 08 ambassadors.

I remember several years ago taking part in a question and answer panel for young people - and one of the big gripes was that they had to keep going to Manchester to see bands. Well that should be less of a problem now we have our own Arena here. And looking through the list of things coming up - some of the events are already booked out.

It's hard to get a sense of scale from someone telling you about capacity - you really have to see the place. It looked, and felt, like it would be a huge success -and according to the press the bookings the building has taken already have meant its already beating its targets.

Feeling under the weather on Friday, I wasn't able to stay for the whole event, but most of the comments from people around me about the venue were really positive. My only grumble would be that the catering concession really needs to sort out a better system to serve people quickly. Although given that the sneak preview event was also a way of the staff practising dealing with the public in large numbers, I rather suspect that problem is solved now.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Capital of Culture Year Starts!

Yesterday I went to buy one of the official Guides to Capital of Culture Year - more of a souvenir brochure than a guide you take out with you. It's a great publication for a fiver - and flicking through it made me realise just what a variety of things there are going on this year (and that's with the knowledge that not everything will be covered in the book). We've got a couple of things coming up. Later this week we are off to an event at the new Arena - which has been put on to make sure ambassadors and other supporters have all the info they need about what's on offer there. And then a week later there is the big "People's Opening" event by St Georges Hall. Given that that one is outside I hope all these predictions of sub zero temperatures are not that accurate!

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Resist ID cards!

This article (pasted below) is from the Daily Telegraph - written by Andrew O Hagan.

We start the year in Britain with a challenge to our essential nature, for 2008 might turn out to be the year when we decide to rip up the Magna Carta.

Among the basic civil rights in this country, there has always been, at least in theory, an inclination towards liberal democracy, which includes a tolerance of an individual's right to privacy.

We are born free and have the right to decide what freedom means, each for ourselves, and to have control over our outward existence, yet that will no longer be the case if we agree to identity cards.

Britain is already the most self-watching country in the world, with the largest network of security cameras; a new study suggests we are now every bit as poor at protecting privacy as Russia, China and America.

But surveillance cameras and lost data will prove minuscule problems next to ID cards, which will obliterate the fundamental right to walk around in society as an unknown.

Some of you may have taken that freedom so much for granted that you forget how basic and important it is, but in every country where ID cards have ever been introduced, they have changed the relation between the individual and the state in a way that has not proved beneficial to the individual. I am not just talking Nazi Germany, but everywhere.

It is also a spiritual matter: a person's identity is for him or her to decide and to control, and if someone decides to invest the details of their person in a higher authority, then it should not be the Home Office.

The compulsory ID card scheme is a sickness born of too much suspicion and too little regard for the meaning of tolerance and privacy in modern life.

Hooking individuals up to a system of instantly accessible data is an obscenity - not only a system waiting to be abused, but a system already abusing.

Though we don't pay much attention to moral philosophy in the mass media now - Bertrand Russell having long been exchanged for the Jeremy Kyle Show - it may be worth remembering that Britain has a tradition of excellence when it comes to distinguishing and upholding basic rights and laws in the face of excessive power.

The ID cards issue should be raising the most stimulating arguments about who we are and how we are - but no, it is not: we nose the grass like sheep and prepare to be herded once again.

It seems the only person speaking up with a broad sense of what this all means is Nick Clegg, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, who has devoted much of his new year message to underlining the sheer horribleness of the scheme.

He has said he will go to jail rather than bow to this "expensive, invasive and unnecessary" affront to "our natural liberal tendencies".

I have to say I cheered when I heard this, not only because I agree, but because it is entirely salutary, in these sheepish times, to see a British politician express his personal feelings so strongly.

Many people on the other side of the argument make what might be called a category mistake when they say: "If you've nothing to hide, why object to carrying a card?"

Making it compulsory to prove oneself, in advance, not to be a threat to society is an insult to one's right not to be pre-judged or vetted.

Our system of justice is based on evidence, not on prior selection, and the onus on proving criminality is a matter for the justice system, where proof is of the essence.

Many regrettable things occur as a result of freedom - some teenage girls get pregnant, some businessmen steal from their shareholders, some soldiers torture their enemies, some priests exploit children - but these cases would not, in a liberal society, require us to end the private existence of all people just in case.

If the existence of terrorists, these few desperate extremists, makes it necessary for everybody in Britain to carry an ID card then it is a price too high.

It is more than a price, it is a defeat, and one that we will repent at our leisure. Challenges to security should, in fact, make us more protective of our basic freedoms; it should, indeed, make us warm to our rights.

In another age, it was thought sensible to try to understand the hatred in the eyes of our enemies, but now it seems we consider it wiser just to devalue the nature of our citizenship.

What's more - it won't work. Nick Clegg has pointed to the gigantic cost and fantastic hubris involved in this scheme, but recent gaffes with personal information have shown just how difficult it is to control and protect data.

A poll of doctors undertaken by has today shown that a majority of doctors believe that the National Programme for IT - seeking to contain all the country's medical records - will not be secure.

In fact, it is causing great worry. Many medical professionals fear that detailed information about each of us will soon be whizzing haphazardly from one place to another, leaving patients at the mercy of the negligent, the nosy, the opportunistic and the exploitative.

"Only people with something to hide will fear the introduction of compulsory ID cards."

That is what they say, and it sounds perfectly practical. If you think about it for a minute, though, it begins to sound less than practical and more like an affront to the reasonable (and traditional) notion that the state should mind its own business.

In a just society, what you have to hide is your business, until such times as your actions make it the business of others. Infringing people's rights is not an ethical form of defence against imaginary insult.

You shouldn't have to tell the government your eye colour if you don't want to, never mind your maiden name, your height, your personal persuasions in this or that direction, all to be printed up on a laminated card under some compulsory picture, to say you're one of us.

You weren't born to be one of us, that is something you choose, and to take the choice out of it is wrong. It marks the end of privacy, the end of civic volition, the end of true citizenship.