Friday, 27 February 2009

Fair Trade

It's Fair Trade fortnight at the moment. Yesterday I went to the Town Hall for an event to celebrate and promote Fair Trade work. Hopefully there'll be some good pictures of the children from some of our Fair Trade schools. Liverpool got Fair Trade City status in 2004 - I was the lead councillor on it at the time - but there is still loads more we can do to encourage this ethical purchasing. Encouragingly and increasing number of shops stock Fair Trade goods and actually pricewise they can be a good bargain.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Counterfeit cigarettes

A while ago I blogged about counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco. An anonymous poster commented about the prevalance of this in some particular pubs (without naming them). Given how dangerous this stuff is, I would like to get the trading standards unit to look into this, but to do so I would need the names of the pubs. I realise the anonymous poster won't want his or her name used, but I'd be grateful if you felt able to give me the details via my council e mail which is

Conference comes back to the City

Today's Daily Post is reporting the Lib Dem decision to hold next year's autumn federal (national) party conference in Liverpool. The autumn conference is the biggie in terms of length and number of delegates. This follows us holding the Spring conference in Liverpool last year.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Motions to Council - Coroners and Justice Bill

The new(ish) system in Liverpool is that while any councillor can submit a motion for Full Council, they won't all get selected for debate. The ones that don't will still end up being discussed and voted on - but at a committee rather than at the Full Council meeting. This one (below) is one I wrote with Cllr Colin Eldridge. We expect it to be discussed at the Overview and Scutiny Committee in mid March.

Council notes the progress of the Government’s ‘Coroners and Justice Bill’.

Council, whilst welcoming the strengthening of the laws surrounding child pornography, and witness protection believes that the proposed legislation leaves open the opportunity for the Government to possibly amend the data protection act.

Clause cl.152 if passed would potentially allow ministers to make 'Information sharing orders’ that can alter any Act of Parliament and cancel all rules of confidentiality in order to use information obtained for one purpose to be used for another.

Council believes this to be illiberal and threatens the civil liberties of Liverpool residents.

Council calls on the Chief Executive to write to the Merseyside MPs asking them to oppose this element of the Coroners & Justice Bill.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Citizenship Ceremony

Today I was the "dignitary" at one of the Liverpool Citizenship Ceremonies. These take place (usually) at the register office and are the ceremony at which people officially are granted their UK citizenship. My job was to make a short speech and then hand over certificates and some lovely Liverpool medals. There were about 25 people taking part , plus some friends and relatives of course. Everyone was dressed up and looked really "smiley". I have sat and watched one of these ceremonies before, but this was the first time I had been booked in as the speaker. It was a lovely experience and I am glad I'll be there again in April. Actually I may be there before then as there is going to be a special ceremony at the Town Hall in March with Lord Goldsmith as the speaker.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Garston Hospital update

This is a quick update on the situation re plans for the rebuilding/development/demolition of Garston Hospital (Sir Alfred Jones Memorial). The PCT (local health service) has put in two planning applications. One is for the demolition and building work and the other is for use of the site for the demolition (car park for workers etc). There is still time for comments re the second one. However there has since been an application to English Heritage for "spot listing" which is basically a way of getting listed building status quickly and therefore stopping certain types of activity - including major changes and demolition. The result of this should be through in six weeks or so. If the building is spot listed the PCT is now saying they will look elsewhere in South Liverpool for a site for the services they were going to start running on the Garston site. I am reporting this with no comment as I don't know how realistic that statement is as it clearly depends on what other sites are avaialable in the area that fit the various criteria identified for that level of provision. I'll be keeping in touch with these developments and will update via the blog when I can.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Sainsbury's planning application - Booker Avenue

Sainsbury's have let us know that they are withdrawing their planning application for the site on Booker Avenue. Several residents were in touch about this so hopefully this news will be good news for those who were worried about parking and traffic. They can of course re submit another application later on and I'll post details here if that happens.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Meeting the police

Along with a small group of other councillors I am meeting the Chief Constable later this week.

I'm then, with a separate group of residents, meeting the neighbourhood inspector for Garston, Speke and Cressington next week.

If you've got any issues you think I should raise, please let me know. You can post here or use my council e mail which is

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Why can't the bus companies get it right

I am a great supporter of public transport. I don't own a car so I get around by bus or train (or sometimes by cycling). But I have a major winge about the bus companies, particularly on services in the mornings. Regularly now if someone gets on to a bus and needs change (and we are often talking about 40 pence change here) the driver says he/she doesn't have enough coins to give it out. So people end up paying more for their fare than they should do. It surely can't be beyond the wit of Arriva (and it's on their services I've seen this happen the most) to give their drivers enough of a float at the beginning of the day. Imagine if you had a shop. You wouldn't take the chance of waiting for customers to provide your change - you'd have the float when you opened up. The same should be true of the bus companies. I've seen this happen too many times now for it to be a one off so I have banged off some letters this morning. After all why should people using public transport have to pay over the odds because of a management failing?

Overdoing the diary!

I've always had a tendency to take on too many things and this Thursday just gone was a case in point.

Luckily for my sanity though even I realised I couldn't possibly do everythig I was meant to and so managed to get some things moved.

I was meant to be marking some student work, doing a screen test for an Edge Hill University DVD, taking part in two heavy meetings, doing a live book review on local radio and presenting a research paper at Liverpool University. Looking at the list earlier in the week the perils of saying yes to too many things became clear.

I shifted some things and got to the end of the day (relieved to have got the research paper out of the way) but I think in future I am going to ask more questions before I agree to things.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Year of the Environment

2009 is Liverpool's Year of the Environment. Here's a link to the website - Our City Our Planet

Mastermind date

I now know when I will be appearing on Mastermind. It'll be the 27th February at 7 30 on BBC 2. This was recorded back in the Summer so all seems a long time ago now but it's nice to know it'll finally be shown. I am answering questions about Seinfeld.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Standing looking at trees

I spent part of this afternoon wandering up and down a road looking at trees. We have some really impressive trees in Cressington ward. But along with those trees comes some problems. All three of the councillors have been contacted over time about trees needing cutting back, or those that look dangerous. So today we went, with three officers who really know their stuff, to have a look at some of them. It makes a lot more sense to deal with tree issues as part of a planned programme (apart from in the case of potential danger and statutory problems) so I made the point that if we had knowledge of existing programmes we could make sure that any extra work could get slipped into them.

Mind you I would like to just for once find a day for a site visit that is not freezing cold - we were being snowed on as we walked along today.

Keeping children safe

A very interesting seminar this evening about the subject of Safeguarding and Children. All elected members, whether they like it or not, are Corporate Parents and so its important that as many as possible are aware of all the issues this involves. I suspect in some people's minds its a bit of a hidden subject - much easier to talk about roads, or litter or leisure centres. But I'm really glad the staff and key elected members are making sure this information is pushed out as widely as possible.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

We in Liverpool often complain that the Government favours Manchester and puts Manchester first when it comes to various initiatives.

But given this one (below) perhaps we ought to be pleased they take that attitude!

Text of an Early Day Motion

Mr John Leech

Andrew Stunell

Mark Hunter

Paul Rowen

Bob Spink

Peter Bottomley

That this House condemns the Government's proposal to consider piloting the identity card scheme in Manchester; notes with concern the wide disparities between Government and academic costing estimates of the scheme; believes that such funding would be better spent putting more police officers on the streets of Greater Manchester; notes the rising levels of public discontent over the scheme; and calls on the Government to halt the identity card scheme without delay.

Our City Our Future Debate - and procurement

Last night was the Our City Our Future Debate (which has previously been called the State of the City Debate). The attendees were a mix of councillors and council officers, representatives from partners, representatives from some community organisations, young people from the Schools Parliament etc. We were looking at Sustainable Development and the Credit Crunch. A very interesting short talk by Eric Bichard in the plenary. I went to the workshop on economic development. Procurement kept coming up and I mentioned that I had been asked to lead on setting up a procurement group of members within the council to have a look at what we are doing and what we could do better. This is clearly a massive job so we may have to split it up and take things one issue at a time if we are going to get anywhere. Anyway today I have been sending e mails to get the group set up and hopefully we'll start work soon.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Can the week get any more hectic?

We are about to start some work at the City Council on improving the shared understanding of people's jobs - councillors need to understand better what officers do and vice versa. We are hoping to set up some shadowing opportunities, but I also thought I would start keeping a diary as if several of us do "week in the life" type stuff it might help others understand what we do. Of course for most councillors this will also include their job - but we need to leave this in as understanding that many of us have other work is key to understanding why we are sometimes in so much of a hurry. Needless to say remembering to write the diary has been a problem but I did manage a sketchy one for the week just gone, which turned out to be particularly hectic. Here is is:

Monday - off to Ormskirk very early as when I have a 9 am lecture that means 9 am for the students, not for me. Today was year two and the crisis management module. Marked some work on the train. Got to work just before 8 and checked the materials for the session. Did some more marking and writing from 11 am, getting ready for the postgraduate session at 2. Finished teaching at 5. Caught up on some casework e mails and phone calls. Left the University shortly after to travel back to Liverpool to go straight to Lib Dem group meeting. Came out at 9. Very hungry so treated myself to a pizza before going home

Tuesday - a meeting with a student at 9 am and then our PR workshop (we teach all the PR students together for this. They are working on two PR projects for the Valley Community Theatre). Found some time over lunch and after 4 to catch up again on e mails, including some work on amendments for the next days council meeting. Stayed at work later than usual then back to Garston for a residents meeting on a local issue.

Wednesday - a lecture with year three PR students then back to Liverpool for work in the Council offices. A seminar about building schools for the future, then a special council meeting then full council. I had a question down about police costs and was responsible for moving an amendment to the Labour leader's motion towards the end of the meeting. For various reasons the meeting went on longer than usual although we didn't finish everything. A quick drink with a few colleagues afterwards then home (rather tired)

Thursday - a days leave from Edge Hill. Work on casework in the Council offices from 8 am. I then joined the panel for the interviews for the new City Solicitor. Back to the office later for more e mails and phone calls. Did my City Talk book review at 3 30. That evening was Education Select Committee. I am not on this Committee but thought it would be useful to go along to get a sense of the meeting, which was discussing Croxteth Comp ( a subject coming up at exec board the next day) The meeting started at 5 but finished after 7 (fair enough as there was a lot to say)

Friday - 8 am meeting with Exec Board colleagues before 9 am exec board. We deferred the Croxteth decision as we wanted officers to have a chance to look at a proposal. After board a series of briefings. At lunchtime I joined Peter Millea and an officer from traffic and highways for a site visit to the Horrocks Avenue, Woolton Road Long Lane junction (problems reported turning across the bus lane). We then walked to Garston hospital for a meeting about how to keep parts of the history of the building incorporated into the new build.

Saturday - travelled down to London to see my parents. Spent much of the journey writing outlines for new PR degree modules.

Today - back from London and more degree module writing. The coming week looks equally crammed with site visits and meetings. Its my turn to do the surgery tomorrow as well. I hope the snow holds off!!