Monday, 27 December 2010

Snow and ice - call for scrutiny to improve plans.

Hooray.  The ice on the pavement on my street seems to be melting away .  But the forecasters say there could be a lot more cold weather to come.

We all know people who've slipped and fallen in this lot of bad weather and uncleared pavements.  And we all know people who've had journeys messed up.

Some problems are inevitable, and I am not one of those who thinks that weather should have no effect at all.

But it seems to me that again we have lessons to learn about how we have coped in Liverpool so far (things we've got wrong as well as right).  And we need to use these lessons to think about next year (before collective memory fades a bit)

So at the environment committee last week I called for the setting up of a panel (name not important - could be a scrutiny panel) to look at what we've learned and what we recommend for next time.  Because in Liverpool this area of responsibility is split (partly environment and partly regeneration) I have asked for this call to be tabled at the regen committee in early January as well.

I personally am very keen we do some work to get some good early recommendations for next winter.

Up to now, for example, it seems to me that councils have operated on a "just in time" supply chain method when it comes to grit.  Get some in and then have an order in for future supplies.  The problem arises when everyone has bad weather and wants the same stuff all at once.  The capacity in the UK for grit production is a maximum  of 8,000 tonnes a day.  Liverpool, when it grits the roads it does grit, uses about 64 tonnes.  Extrapolate from that to other Cities all over the UK and you can see that if everyone is using the just in time approach there will not be enough to go round. 

I risk becoming a snow and ice obsessive (!) but these times are when people really look to local Councils and its important we get things right.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Grit Bins - call for more - committee 22 Dec

Berni Turner and I have a motion going to this week's Environment Select Committee about grit bins.  Like many councillors we have been innundated with calls about the need for more bins, the need for more publicity about where they are and so on.

This week's weather has clearly shown that we need to have more tools in place to help communities deal with snow and ice.

The text of the motion is below.

“Committee notes that while "grit bins" are provided in parts of the City there are areas which are under supplied and areas in which there is unmet demand for extra bins.

Committee recognises that analysing the need for bins by purely looking at a map is not the best approach as there are many local factors to take into account which might mean a bin is needed even if a map says that it is not (gradient of streets for example)

Committee believes that more bins are needed in Liverpool and that there is community demand for this.

Committee recognises that media reports have said that the Council has ordered some extra bins for particular locations (although these reports have not specified where). Committee however believes that while reacting quickly is important, it is equally important to think about future years and what the City needs.

Committee therefore calls on the Cabinet Member for Environment to produce a plan for the provision of extra bins which includes

* specifying how many bins will be ordered by the City Council;

* consultation with ward members and district committees about locations
where additional grit bins would be suitable; and

* discussions with social housing providers about whether they can also
provide and maintain bins in estates where they have a management role

Ends here

The reference to the media reports about extra bins is to a story in the Liverpool Echo a few days ago about some bins being not delivered because of the snow.  A council spokesperson said these were "extra" but no one appears to know to where.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Pupil Premium figures

Yesterday saw the announcement of provisional figures for the Pupil  Premium payments ( provisional because the actual figures depend on the school census for the next academic year).

In Liverpool we'll be getting nearly eight million pounds.

I had an e mail from Sarah Teather, Lib Dem minister in the education department, last night about the money that will be coming to schools in my own constituency - Garston and Halewood.

I've posted it below.


Dear Paula

Today the government unveiled further details of the Pupil Premium – a key Liberal Democrat policy which will ensure the most disadvantaged children in our country get the help they need.

From April next year every school in England will get £430 for each child in their school on Free School Meals. Based on latest estimates this will mean at least an extra £1,495,110 for schools to spend on the students who need it most in Garston & Halewood.

Each year between now and 2015 the amount spent in your constituency will rise – by 2015 we will be spending a total of £2.5bn nationally on the pupil premium.

This is money on top of what is already being allocated for schoolchildren – no school will lose money as result of the Pupil Premium. And it will be given to Head Teachers to spend at their discretion on what they think works best for their school – be it extra one to one classes, breakfast clubs or after-school clubs.

The Pupil Premium was one of four key front page manifesto commitments on which we fought the last General Election. Making it a reality will help improve the social mobility and life chances of hundreds of thousands of children from less privileged backgrounds over the coming years.

Best wishes,

Sarah Teather MP

Minister of State, Department for Education

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Poverty Commission - some movement. It's happening!

I blogged a while ago about my frustration at the failure of the Liverpool Poverty Commission to actually start meeting.  The problem was highlighted when a City Council motion was unanimously passed asking the Commission to do a piece of work, and it couldn't because it hadn't actually got going.

Anyway, since then there's been some progress and assuming no disaster the Commission should start off in January.

It won't be called the Poverty Commission but it'll be looking at all the sorts of things you'd expect it to and it will be producing recommendations that are not just for the City Council but for a range of public,private and voluntary organisations.

The work of keeping it on track (sorting out meetings and paperwork etc) will be done by the City Council's committee services section (so when its going that will be a first point of call for info - including the committee services section of the website)

I'll blog again when I have more details as I am sure there'll be some people who want to come and give evidence, listen to the debate etc.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

University and College Union - how about thinking before you speak?

Today saw the publication of a piece of "research" from the union "representing" University Lecturers, the UCU.

According to them Edge Hill University is on a danger list of Universitites at "high risk" of going out of business.

Leaving aside the first time anyone at Edge Hill, including those who are union reps, knew about this report was when the media got in touch, the lack of thought and consideration by UCU is breathtaking.

Firstly, the material in the report is innaccurate.  The Edge Hill Vice Chancellor, who ought to know a bit about the finances, told staff the following

"This (the claims in the report and press release ) is, of course, arrant nonsense. The University has just reported its highest ever cash balance, its highest ever operating surplus, its largest ever intake, its biggest all years student number, its best-ever performance in the Sunday Times, the Times and the Independent league tables, a record number of applicants, a record increase in the percentage growth in applicants, second place in the 'University of the Year' awards, second place in the 2010 graduate employment tables, second place amongst mainstream universities for students' personal development and a top fifteen place in the National Students Survey. We have also just had two of the cleanest institutional audits possible, and were the only university to appear in the Sunday Times' top twenty public sector employers."

Secondly, at a time when lobbying is concentrating on tuition fees, why choose now to muddy the waters with this?  This has effectively diverted attention from the clear argument about fees.  Own goal or what???

Finally, does UCU not realise that innacurate publishing at a time when students and their families are choosing whether to go to University, and if so which to go to, is hardly helpful.

UCU is meant to represent people who work at Universities.  But in one easy grab at profile, they have made our job that much harder.  Perhaps Sally Hunt would like to come and talk to my media students who are upset at reports that their University may close.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Give your views on local health services

Liverpool LiNK, which is an organisation giving people the chance to have their say about the health service, is holding five meetings this month for people who want to go along and share their views.  The organisation wants to get feedback about the NHS so that it can make improvements to meet the needs of local people.

The meeting in South Liverpool is

Monday 13th December 2010,

13.30 – 17.00

Bridge Chapel Centre, Heath Road Liverpool, L19 4XR
You can find out more by e mailing

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Dangerous pavements - do they need more attention.

Today is the first real day of snow and ice for us here in Liverpool.  Worryingly there've been quite a few reports of people slipping and falling in the City Centre (not the Liverpool One bit).  This is odd as we were assured that the new product the Council was using could clear away dangerous ice from pavements and the weather forecast did flag up snow and ice overnight.

Along with a number of phone calls, I received this e mail today which (having taken off the gentleman's name) I am pasting below.  (It is possible that the high pressure hose mentioned is actually a reference to the Safethaw product, to give the benefit of the doubt in this case).

I have complained already about the decision to only use this pavement clearer in the City Centre.  But today it seems that it either doesn't work, or it hasn't been used properly there either.

If there are glitches in the system, its up to all of us to point them out so that we can avoid problems further on into the winter.

(E mail starts)

The reason for this email is because on my way to work this morning I slipped on untreated ice on Church Street. I have bruising to my shoulder, arms and a headache. I am a fit person, my concern is what happens if this was an elderly person, think of the damage that they could suffer!!!

That is the reason for my email. I saw a representative from Liverpool Enterprise and spoke to him. He was not interested and said he was paid to clean the streets. I am sorry but to deploy staff to use a high pressure hose in this weather beggars belief.

I then walked up to the Council Officers on Dale Street to inform them of the dangers of Church Street and that they need to make it a priority to avoid a major accident. I was give a form to complete about complaining and no one especially the manager on duty understand the point I was making. He in fact said “we do not keep grit here”. However I did notice that Dale Street was nicely gritted!!!

I am sorry but if this is the level of service that the City now offers its residents and workers it is a very sad day. It would appear that no one is prepared to make a decision to avoid would could have been a major incident. All I want was someone to pick up a phone and priorities’ the matter not add it to a computer list.

I was trying to do my civic duty and report the issue, however I got so frustrated that when again asked did I want to file a complaint I replied “I think I will let my lawyer talk to you” and then left.

New development for Speke Boulevard?

A planning application's come in from a company wanting to build a Garden Centre and some other stuff on Speke Boulevard.  For people who know the road, they are talking about the corner with the big airport sign and not a lot else.

There was originally a plan to put a multiplex cinema, restaurants etc on this corner but despite that going through back in 2004, nothing much happened apart from the hotel being built.

Information about the plans are available at

You might need to scroll down a bit.

The Planning Committee meets to make its decision on 7th December (next Tuesday)

Monday, 29 November 2010

Cash deserts motion -why should we pay for our cash? December 1st.

Along with colleagues Peter Millea and Ron Gould, I have a motion which should be discussed/voted on at the Regeneration Select Committee on Wednesday  night (1st Dec).

It's inspired by a local campaign we are involved in about the lack of non-charging ATMs (cash machines) in part of South Liverpool.

We are hoping that the Council can its communication channels to help create a more Liverpool-wide sense of where the problems are.

There is a blog set up to support the South Liverpool campaign.  It is at

Meanwhile, the motion is pasted below:

Access to Cash Notice of Motion by Councillors Paula Keaveney, Peter Millea, Ron Gould

Committee notes that in the UK nearly 40 percent of ATMs (cash machines) charge a fee to users who want to draw out money. The fees range from £1 50 to £2 00 per withdrawal.

Committee further notes that there are parts of the City in which, because of the withdrawal of banks or for other reasons, people have to travel long distances to find a cash machine that does not charge.

Committee agrees that this is a particular problem for those on low incomes who may not have their own transport to easily get to a non charging ATM.

Committee notes that there are localised community campaigns, such as one in the Cressington and Mossley Hill area, that are working to lobby for more free ATMs. This campaign is the brainchild of a local resident and currently has active support from the councillors in both wards. The initial problem was caused by the withdrawal of a bank from the Aigburth Road area and Councillors are currently pressing the bank to make good the lack of a cash machine.

Committee believes that no one should be without the means of withdrawing their own money without being penalised.

Committee therfeore calls on the relevant cabinet member to take the following steps to ensure that there is no part of Liverpool that is not served by a non charging ATM.

* organise research to provide a map of ATM provision in Liverpool, thus identifying areas of particular need

* work with district committees to support localised campaigns to ensure more non charging ATMs

* work with other organisations, including those representing retailers, to lobby for more non charging ATM sites

* use existing communications channels including City Magazine and the council's website to seek views on potential sites for ATMs

Committee further calls on the relevant cabinet member to organise a submission to the Commission on Banking about the need for non charging ATMs and the harm that can be caused when there is a lack.

Committee further calls on the Liverpool Poverty Commission to ensure that the provision of non charging ATMs is an item on its work programme

Crime figures in South Liverpool

I get regular bulletins from the local police (covering Speke/Garston and Cressington wards). 

They are getting a lot of information out these days (and even have a Facebook page).

What's interesting about the most recent one is the crime figures.

They've looked at April 2010 to the current time (I got this earlier in November so I assume the cut off is in October) and compared it with the same period last year.

For the vast majority of types of crime, the figures are down, in some cases quite dramatically.

Total crime reported is down by 17 per cent.

In some categories the reduction is actually 33 per cent.

Violent crime is down by 23 per cent and burglary by 28 per cent. 

There are some increases.  Drug offences and  theft of a motor car are both up.

But the police tell me that they are pleased with these figures and say that their work on crime reduction is having an effect.

Obviously if you are the victim of a crime, it doesn't help that much to be told that overall the figures are getting better.  But it's good to get these sorts of reports as I know our local police work very hard.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Merseyrail wrong to drop Xmas cheap tickets

Earlier this week Merseyrail announced they were not going to be re running the Christmas Cracker promotion.

This was a scheme which allowed people to travel more cheaply on certain days and times in the run up to Xmas.  It was aimed at people going into the City centre to shop.

Merseyrail are saying that they won't do it this year because they are worried about overcrowding, because they don't "need" to do it (meaning the marketing objectives have been met) and that it makes less sense now to highlight late afternoon and evening on one particular day as there is late night shopping pretty much all the time now.

Some writers have agreed with the scheme being dropped, the Post and Echo's David Bartlett among them.

However  I think Merseyrail is wrong for a number of reasons.

Firstly, as a general principle given all the worries about climate change surely we ought to be encouraging people to use public transport.  This sort of promotion is aimed partly at people who have their own transport and it is designed to help them make the marginal decision about the benefits of driving in or taking the train.  If the persuasion to take the train is removed, then surely they will drive adding to congestion and pollution.

Secondly although it is true that some trains are overcrowded (how about giving us  six car trains on all the rush hour services from Hunts Cross for example instead of the shorter ones we have to crowd on to ?) this promotion was aimed at shoppers travelling in to the City in the opposite direction to commuters coming home.  (Its also noticeable that Merseyrail is publicising more frequent trains on the line to and from Chester so surely that will help some of the crowding)

Finally if it is no longer logical to target the late night shopping day as it doesn't really exist any more, why not target instead the least popular shopping day as a way of helping both shoppers and traders?

Of course if there were going to be extra bus services in the run up to Xmas then it could be argued that the public transport option is still being promoted.  But I have been researching into this and I can see no signs of extra buses planned by either Ariva or Stagecoach.

I'll be asking a question to the representative of MITA at the next full council meeting.  As the administation has removed the right to ask supplementary questions however I may not get much from this.  Perhaps the Councillors who represent Liverpool on MITA can follow this up (if that is they think the removal was a mistake)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Council tax scam

Some fraudsters have been phoning people in Liverpool and telling them they are due Council tax refunds.  They've then been asking for bank details.

So far the people who've reported this have not been conned but the Council is keen that as many people as possible know about the scam

There are some details posted about it here on the Council's website

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

LDL recordings and following up questions

I was at Overview and Scutiny last night where there was an interesting report about LDL.  It covered some of the operational issues like nunbers of calls, increases in answering rates etc.  It also touched on calls being recorded (something I am part way through researching).

So I took the opportunity to ask a few questions ( an earlier blog on this explains that I have come across the issue of recorded calls and judgements being made about tone of voice through doing a piece of casework for a constituent). 

I was told that calls are kept for 3 months (not the full 12 months) as there isn't capacity to keep them for longer.

I was also told that the City Council can ask for information about calls but that the information would be provided as a transcript of the call not the actual recording.  I asked about how this was controlled.  I am still not sure exactly who in the City Council would have the authority to do this but hopefully that is checkable. I also asked if a member of the public whose call had been recorded would have similar rights.  The answer to this is yes by using the Data Protection rules (a subject access request) .  Obviously though,  if something is being queried by the Council (say an account of an incident is in dispute) the problem would be that the citizen would not necessarily know this and so would not know to make a request.

Personally I always deal with LDL by e mail but I wonder if there is anyone out there that would want to try doing a Subject Access Request for transcripts of their calls to see if this would work.

UPDATE: The report on LDL will also be going to the LDL scutiny panel which I understand meets next week (details should be at in the meetings and agendas section)

Garston Hospital - is there a design flaw?

I was walking from Liverpool South Parkway Station down towards Garston village the other day and I saw what looked like someone flashing a light at me.

On closer inspection it turned out to be a reflection from the wall of the new hospital building (the sun was very bright and the outside wall stuff seems very shiny)

In all the discussions about the new build (and some may remember there was quite a row about  why the building couldn't preserve some of the older exterior) I don't remember anything about this outside being reflective.

But if it is reflective, and it stays like that, there could be quite a few problems for motorists when the sun is bright and at a certain angle.

Obviously the dark winter days don't provide many examples of this, but I will report the reflection I saw as I am not sure a health service building should contribute to potential accidents!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Big week for Edge Hill University

Later this week, Edge Hill University will find out whether it has won this year's University of the Year title.

The big awards ceremony is Thursday evening (25th November).

It's the second time in the last few years that Edge Hill has been nominated, so fingers crossed this time.

UPDATE: Sadly the University came second.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Good News on St Mary's Road

At last! The City Council looks set to compulsorily purchase the awful run down building opposite Somerfield at the bottom of St Mary's road in Garston

Well done to my colleague Councillor Richard Oglethorpe, who in his district committee chair role has been pushing on this (including site visits and so on) for some time now.

The CPO would also include a couple of numbers in James Street.

The info about this is in the paperwork for the Cabinet meeting on Friday which is in the meetings and agendas section of

Friday, 19 November 2010

Following up on issues

I'm standing in for a colleague at the City Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday.

As luck would have it there are items on both Freedom of Information and Liverpool Direct so I have an extra opportunity to follow up on the topics I've been blogging about recently.

Here is the link to the paperwork for the committee.  The report on FOI simply underlines that the information provided to me in July was wrong!

Questioning FOI figures

I've been having some trouble getting a clear account of how exactly Liverpool City Council is performing on Freedom of Information questions (and Subject Access questions - which are the ones you can ask about data held about yourself)

I've been given in the past two sets of figures which contradict themselves.  I think its important that we know how the authority is performing on this (particularly given the effort I put into improving the response rates last year)

Anyway, in frustration on the lack of clarity I asked a question of Cllr Paul Brant, deputy leader of the council, at the finance committee on Wednesday.  To be fair to him he did agree to go away and get an answer.  The question is pasted below.

Question to the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources

In a reply to a Council question to me in July, the cabinet member gave the most recent performance figures for FOI and SAR requests being met as

FOI 96%

SAR 100%

A report to the most recent O and S Committee however also reported on the figures but reported these as

FOI 83 %

SAR 45%

These figures are clearly very different.

I have been promised an explanation of how this happened by officers. This explanation has however yet to materialise.

Can the Cabinet Member, whose name appears on the Council answer, please tell me the reason for the discrepancy or give me a timeframe in which an answer will be provided?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Petition on Tuition Fees

A party member recently asked  Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidates from the last General Election to sign a petition against tuition fees. The petition's been sent off to the party's MPs now. I was happy to sign the petition which I am pasting below. The names are not in alphabetical order and mine is about half way down the list.

Petition text starts:

During the General Election campaign many of our MP’s (and now government ministers) signed a pledge with the National Union of Students that they would vote against any tuition fee rises during the course of the next Parliament. The wording of this pledge clearly indicated that this would be unconditional; regardless of whether the party was in government or in opposition. The party has been very clear for many years about its view on tuition fees and that we feel they should be abolished.

However after the recent publication of the Browne review into university funding it now seems entirely likely that although tuition fees will be capped this will be done to an unacceptable level of somewhere between £9000-£9500 per year with almost all courses costing at least £6000 per year.

Stopping this from happening is vitally important. Not just for the benefit of students but also for the Liberal Democrats. There is one thing that sets the Liberal Democrats apart from other political parties; this is that when we say we will do something during election campaigns we then do it in government. This can be seen in how the income tax threshold will rise to £10,000 by the end of this Parliament, the AV referendum on 5th May 2011, the reduction of MP’s to 600, the Pupil Premium and the delay over the replacement of Trident. We have achieved this and more despite the compromises of being in a coalition.

Nick Clegg emphasised this best of all during the televised leadership debates when he said that the Labour and Conservative Parties have given us “Nothing but broken promises”, he also emphasised that “The Liberal Democrats are different”. Finally and crucially he announced how he wanted to create a “New politics” and part of this vision was for parties to do in government as they claim they will in opposition.

It is time for us to remind him of these important values. The rise in tuition fees is designed to fill in the £2.9 billion black hole that will be left in the teaching funds for universities after the announcement of cuts of 40% in the spending review. However in the context of reducing the deficit this is a drop in the ocean and these savings could surely be better achieved elsewhere. For example during much of Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister the top rate of tax for the highest earners was 60% and yet today in harder financial times it is 50%. Yet it is students (hardly the richest people in our society) who will be paying for the last generations mistakes. This may be a hard time economically but this is a battle we must win.

We are different and must show that we are; especially now that we are in a position to do so. Otherwise this party will rightly face many more years back in the political wilderness having been labelled as ‘just like the other lot’.

So are these savings of £2.9 billion worth it? Is this price worth the loss of our party’s integrity and our values? If not then we must let the leadership know how we feel and stop these fees from rising while we still can.

We, the undersigned Parliamentary Liberal Democrat Candidates at the 2010 General Election, call on Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and all the Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against any increase in tuition fees, as pledged to the National Union of Students and publicised as such during the 2010 General Election campaign.

There must be better alternatives and we must find the right one; or the else the party and the next generation of students will rightly feel let down for the next Parliament and beyond.

Signatures:Derek Deedman (Arundel and South Downs)

Godfrey Newman (Horsham)

Simon McDougall (Littlehampton and Bognor)

Martin Lury (Chichester)

5. Bernadette Millam (Brighton Pavilion)

Andrew Falconer (Runnymede and Weybridge)

Paul Elgood (Hove)

James Blanchard (Huddersfield)

Jon Underwood (Tiverton and Honiton)

10. Mark Chapman (Spelthorne)

Andrew Aalders (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich)

Wendy Taylor (Newcastle upon Tyne East)

Nick Perry (Hastings and Rye)

Peter Carroll (Maidstone and the Weald)

15. Alan Bullion (Sevenoaks)

Roger Barlow (Macclesfield)

Richard Baum (Bury North)

Nigel Quinton (Hitchin and Harpenden)

Nigel Bennett (South Suffolk)

20. Chris Nelson (Kettering)

Chris Bramall (Stourbridge)

Sam Boote (Nottingham East)

Adam Carew (East Hampshire)

David Ord (North Tyneside)

25. Adrian Collet (Aldershot)

Gareth Epps (Reading East)

Chris Foote Wood (Middlesbrough)

John Dixon (Cardiff North)

Philip Eades (Poole)

30. Steven Lambert (Aylesbury)

Philip Latham (Stockton North)

Lynne Beaumont (Folkestone and Hythe)

Michael Mullaney (Bosworth)

Brendan D’Cruz (Castle Point)

35. Jamie Matthews (Pudsey)

Helen Flynn (Skipton and Ripon)

Edward Fordham (Hampstead and Kilburn)

Alex Berhanu (Ilford North)

Richard Grayson (Hemel Hempstead)

40. Howard Keal (Thirsk and Malton)

Iarla Kilbane-Dawe (Edmonton)

Paula Keaveney (Garston and Halewood)

Steve Guy (Wycombe)

Rob Hylands (Gosport)

45. Martin Pierce (West Ham)

Tim McKay (Edinburgh South West)

Elizabeth Jewkes (City of Chester)

Daniel Roper (Broadland)

Stephen Glenn (Linlithgow and East Falkirk)

50. Chris Tucker (Slough)

Dave Raval (Hackney South and Shoreditch)

Margaret Rowley (Mid-Worcestershire)

Mike Willis (Loughborough)

Andrew Simpson (Northampton North)

55. Colin Ross (Wolverhampton North East)

Fiona Hornby (Devizes)

Paul Smith (Enfield North)

Tom Snowdon (Amber Valley)

Anna Pascoe (South West Devon)

60. Denis Healy (Hull North)

Tony Hill (Maidenhead)

Jane Lock (North Swindon)

Les Jones (Morecambe and Lunesdale)

Paul Brighton (Alyn and Deeside)

65. Ian Robertson (Rutherglen and Hamilton West)

David Harding-Price (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

David Rendel (Newbury)

John Loughton (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow)

David Hall Matthews (Bradford West)

70. David Smith (Wakefield)

Jerry Evans (Birmingham Hall Green)

Carol Woods (City of Durham)

Denise Hawksworth (Bolsover)

Mark Blackburn (Westminster North)

75. Jonathan Bramall (Dudley South)

Jane Brophy (Altrincham and Sale West)

Peter Reisdorf (Wirral West)

Jill Wareham (Isle of Wight)

Jane Kulka (Reigate)

80. Paul Dixon (Sunderland Central)

Susan Gaszczak (Rayleigh and Wickford)

Sally FitzHarris (Kingswood)

Simon Partridge (Great Yarmouth)

David Rundle (Banbury)

85. Mike Collins (The Cotswolds)

Margaret Phelps (Witham)

Stephen Martin (North Warwickshire)

Graham Oakes (Exeter)

Nigel Jones (Newcastle under Lyme)

90. Trevor Carbin (South West Wiltshire)

Farooq Qureshi (Leyton and Wanstead)

John McClintock (Chatham and Aylesford)

Nigel Rock (Kinelworth and Southam)

Christian Vassie (York Central)

95. Linda Jack (Mid Bedfordshire)

Kevin Ward (Glasgow East)

James Monaghan (Morley and Outwood)

David Goodall (Southampton Itchen)

Joe Naitta (Derbyshire Dales)

100. Robin Lawrence (Wolverhampton South West)

Lucy Care (Derby North)

Richard Nixon (Brigg and Goole)

Sally McIntosh (Mid Derbyshire)

Alan Beddow (Warwick and Leamington)

What's happened to the Liverpool Poverty Commission?

Some time ago the City Council agreed to set up a Liverpool Poverty Commission.  The idea was to look at issues of poverty and to make concrete recommendations (not just to the City Council).  The membership was to be drawn from a range of sectors, including business, the voluntary sector, academia, politics etc.

In my exec member role I worked on getting the membership sorted out.  We found a Chair we had a list of members and a draft programme of potential meetings.

Then the election intervened.

Since then I have literally heard nothing about what is going on with this Commission (although my name still appears on the list of members on the Council website)  This is despite the Council actually agreeing back in July to ask the Commission to do some work!

Last night, at the finance and resources committee, I submitted a motion about this trying to see if this Commission is going to start work or not.  The text of the motion is below.  Obviously I haven't had an answer yet (it would be unreasonable to expect one so quickly) but I'll update when I know more

Motion by Councillor Paula Keaveney - Poverty Commission

Motion by Councillor Paula Keaveney -

This committee notes the decision of Full Council in July on VAT and the implications of a rise in the rate.

The Council motion included the following amendment (proposed by Cllrs Paula Keaveney and Paul Clein)

The addition of the following paragraph at the end, “Further Council calls upon the Liverpool Poverty Commission to bring forward details of how the rise in VAT could affect different vulnerable people and communities across the city by the 10th November 2010.

Committee notes that not only was the required report back not made, but the Liverpool Poverty Commission (which itself was set up following a Council motion) has yet to meet.

This committee deeply regrets the failure of the administration to convene a meeting of the Commission as requested by Full Council and calls on the relevant Cabinet members to ensure that the Commission meets and that the opposition members of the Commission are kept informed as to progress in convening an initial meeting.

Committee believes that if a decision has been taken not to proceed with the Commission, the administration should have reported this back to the Commission members and to all elected members. The committee therefore calls on the relevant Cabinet members to make clear in writing their intentions around this piece of work.

UPDATE: This Commission now shows signs of starting to meet in the New Year.  Will blog again when there are dates and themes confirmed

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Fire Safety Bill in Parliament this Friday

Lib Dem MP Adrian Sanders (represents Torbay) has a Private Members Bill which if passed would make landlords of privately rented accommodation responsible for making sure there are functioning smoke alarms.

The title of the bill is Fire Safety (Protection of Tenants) Bill.  It has its second reading in the Commons this coming Friday (19th).

This sounds like a sensible measure that could save lives.  I do hope Liverpool MPs will be on hand to help this Bill get through.

Full details are on Adrian's website or on the facebook page for the Bill.

Police help in Beechwood

A very quick post to say that a Police Community Support Officer will be out in Beechwood Road and Beechwood Gardens (L19) today to give advice and provide some SmartWater marking.  He'll be with a member of staff from LMH.  If you live in the Beechwood Estate area do look out for them.

Cash deserts campaign update

Last week the three Lib Dem Councillors representing Cressington ward (one of which is me) and the three representing Mossley Hill wrote to HSBC as part of the campaign against the cash desert in South Liverpool.

We are calling for HSBC to take some action itself to replace the cash machine that has gone as a result of the bank pulling out of the site at Mersey Road and Aigburth Road.

I'll update when we get a reply.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Liverpool Direct - recording of calls

A few weeks ago, in the course of helping a constituent with an issue, I discovered that a particular call to Liverpool Direct Limited (LDL) had been replayed to check someone's tone of voice. The suggestion was that my constituent was not particularly upset by an incident and this was shown by her tone of voice on the phone. The incident I was looking into included allegations of abuse by a bailiff and sounded very shocking indeed.

The incident is being followed up and hopefully we can get it resolved in a way which helps my constituent and stops bailiffs acting like that again.

But this investigation got me wondering how many of the calls to LDL do get recorded and what is actually done with the recordings. I also wondered about what sort of permission someone needed to replay a particular call.

I made a Freedom of Information request to find out the answers to some of this and have pasted the replies below.

The questions were:
1.What proportion of incoming calls to LDL are recorded?
2. For how long are these recordings kept
3.How are they stored?
4.What criteria are used for deciding whether a recording can be played back and to whom?

In the case of e mail enquiries and subsequent replies

5.What proportion of these are saved?
6.For how long?
7.Total number of inbound calls to LDL in a year
8.Total number of inbound e mails to LDL in a year


89.5% of all calls are recorded
Calls are stored for a maximum of 12 months.
They are stored securely on servers via the business IT network.
Calls are recorded for training and quality purposes. The Quality Management part of the system selects a number of random calls each month for each Contact Centre Team Leader.
All emails are archived.
Emails are stored for 12 months.
LDL receives 1,960,33 calls in a year
LDL receives 100,149 emails in a year

Now obviously answer number 4 is incomplete or misleading. I very much doubt if my constituent's call happened to be randomly selected and played back at the exact moment the officer was looking into the issue when I raised it. There must be some other way by which council officers can ask for recorded calls to be identified and played back and I have sent in another FOI to pursue this.

My other reaction however was that I was surprised that quite so many calls are recorded. If I had been asked to guess, I would have put this at about one third of calls. After all the message you hear says that "calls may be recorded for training and quality purposes". With these figures it would actually be closer to accurate to say "your call will be recorded and may be reviewed for training and quality purposes or if we want to check up on you at some point in the next year".

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Motion to City Council - litter and takeaways

Here's a copy of the motion I have sent in for tomorrow night's Full Council meeting. This one has a high chance of being debated (my other on battery recycling is likely to go straight to a committee)


Council acknowledges that while there are some take away outlets that are responsible neighbours, litter outside fast food takeaways is often a matter of extreme annoyance to neighbours and passers by alike.

Council recognises that while litter bins can be an answer to some of the problems, experience has shown that these do not always result in a lack of street litter outside and near the take away premises.

Council further recognises that some take aways are on busy main access routes and so can, by allowing litter strewn street areas, cause a poor impression of our City to visitors and potential investors.

Council notes that local authorities have the power, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Clean Neighbourhoods Act 2005 to issue street litter notices to take away establishments.

These notices compel the businesses to take responsibility for keeping particular sections of the pavement free of litter.

Council therefore calls on the Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change to investigate how speedily the Council can start using the powers it is entitled to use and to report back to the Environment and Climate Change Select Committee within one cycle as to when a pilot scheme will be started. Council believes that elected members should have a say as to where this pilot scheme takes place and therefore requests the Cabinet Member to invite submissions from District Committees as to the areas to be initially targeted.

The link for the whole agenda is this

Monday, 1 November 2010

Jack Allen update

There've been various comments in the press and elsewhere maintaining that the Jack Allen plans can be stopped by simply asking a Government Minister to intervene.

I've been pretty sure this isn't the case but didn't want to write it off completely without checking up on the law. Having fired off enquiries in several directions, I today got replies from a Lecturer in Planning law, the City Council's planning department and the City Council's legal department.

The bad news is that ministers don't have the power to intervene now on this one (ironically they could have done so before the Public Inquiry but before the public inquiry the scheme had been turned down!).

But that doesn't mean it's all over. We are still exploring whether or not High Court action is possible. And we are still pushing for the Council to identify alternative sites for Jack Allen (in fact my colleague Peter has a meeting about this later this week)

The Council has so far refused to fund legal action but we are looking at whether we can do this anyway (if there is a good point of law there)

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Questions on winter preparations

We've got the Regeneration Select Committee later this week. I am one of the three Lib Dem members. There's a question time for committee members and members of the public to ask questions of the Cabinet Member and Council officers. I have sent three in. Thie (below) is the one on getting ready for winter.

"Recent media coverage has hightlighted the problems faced by councils across the country in preparing for winter.
It is reported that there is not enough salt supply in the UK to satisfy the potential demands and that some authorities are already looking at sourcing salt from overseas.

Can the Cabinet member please tell me

What preparations for advance purchase of salt have been made by LCC?

What capacity do we have, if any, for storage of salt locally?

Does he anticipate any difficulty, similar to that being predicted by other local authorities, in getting enough supplies for Liverpool's needs?

Has there been any increase in the budget line identified to pay for gritting since May 2010?

Beechwood clean up

Local residents, staff from LMH and volunteers from the Princes Trust were among those helping with a clean up on parts of the Beechwood Estate last week. My colleage Richard Oglethorpe joined LMH staff to help survey residents about the improvements they'd like to see. The helpers, including members of the Merseyside Fire Service, shifted huge amounts of rubbish. For those who know what parts of the communal gardens looked like before, the change is dramatic.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Jack Allen Campaign - a bit of good news

Last night I got a letter from the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority. This thankfully restated the fact that they are not going to send any waste to Jack Allen Holdings for its planned waste plant.

We are still fighting to prevent this plant going ahead, and we know that if JA can't get contracts to deal with waste, it won't be built.

The letter was in response to something I had sent but big thanks to other people who also lobbied MWDA.

Environment Committee next week

Next week I'm at the Environment and Climate Change Committee. We've got someone coming from Enterprise Liverpool to talk about those annoying blue bags so perhaps all the shouting has paid off. (I hope so because we are talking about four years of intermitent shouting)

Anyway, I have also sent in a couple of questions which I have posted below.

Shopping Trolleys

Given that abandoned shopping trolleys can cause an environmental nuisance and that trolley dumping still occurs in parts of the City, are there any plans to use the powers in schedule 4 of the Environmental Protection Act?

If so, what is the schedule for holding the consultation as specified in section 99 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005?

If there are no plans at present, would the Cabinet member agree to consult elected members as to the extent of the problem in their particular ward?

Leaf Fall

What is the current level of complaints about leaf fall collection as logged on Confirm?

Are there any particular areas or streets which are identifying themselves as problems needing extra attention – and if so where are they?

Information about this Select Committee and others is at

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Protecting your property

I've just had a message from Merseyside Police about a free service which helps people register their property and which means police find it easier to trace stolen items. It's also meant to act as a bit of a deterrent I understand.

The service is called Immobilise and there is a link to its website here.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Why not lobby?

One of the ways we can all try to prevent Jack Allen building the waste plant in Garston is to make sure they don't get any public sector contracts for waste. It's clear to me that the company won't take the risk of building if they cannot get contracts to deal with enough waste.

Now there's not a lot we can do about private contracts. We don't after all know who the likely customers are.

But we do know that in this area the people dealing with domestic waste are the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority.

Their job, among other things, is to get rid of the stuff from our purple bins.

When Jack Allen originally tried to persuade people in Garston to accept a waste plant, their literature implied that this waste would be domestic waste and so they would be helping meet recycling targets.

We challenged this as we knew no contract existed, amd MWDA wrote quite a stiff letter to say they had no involvement in the Jack Allen plans.

My worry now though is that Jack Allen will attempt to persuade MWDA to go with them and therefore create the conditions they need to build.

I've written to Carl Beer, who's in charge at MWDA as have other local residents. It would be great if others could send a short e mail to him to see if he will stand by MWDA's earlier statement. If you want to send an e mail to MWDA the address is

Their website is here

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Spending review

There'll be loads of spin about today's Comprehensive Spending Review. Here is a link to some of the factual information.

Garston waste plant campaign progress?

We've been meeting with some of the campaigners against the waste plant in Garston to see if , even at this late stage, we can stop Jack Allen building this in our community.

Last week, Richard, Peter and I wrote to the Council leader to ask the administration for two particular bits of help.

The story about this letter is in today's Liverpool Echo here.

There's actually a rather encouraging editorial on page 10 of the same newspaper (I can't find an electronic version of it but if I can I will post it here).

The text of the letter we sent is pasted below.

We believe it is not too late to get this scheme stopped. We may have fewer avenues open to us now but it would be wrong of us not to follow up every possible idea.

Text of letter starts here

Friday 15th October – BY HAND

Dear Councillor Anderson

You may be aware of the decision by the independent Planning Inspector over plans for a waste plant in Garston. The decision, which follows a Public Inquiry in June, is that Jack Allen Holdings WILL be allowed to build a plant on land at Garston Dock.

We believe however that there are still things that can be done to prevent this happening and to therefore support the views of the local community. The site is in Speke Garston ward and affects thousands of people there. It also, because of its situation, affects thousands of people in Cressington ward and potentially some residents in other parts of South Liverpool.

Following discussions with members of the local community, we have been asked to contact the administration to request two things.

Firstly, that a sum of money is found to ensure proper legal research into the published decision and, if there are legal grounds, to pursue High Court Action. Planning officers have told us they have no money to do this but clearly it is impossible to plan departmental budgets to anticipate these sorts of appeals. The administration could, however, choose to prioritise this action and we feel sure there would be cross party support for this.

Secondly, that negotiations take place with either Jack Allen or with Jack Allen’s representatives (Jon Egan and colleagues) to see if, at this late stage, there is a piece of land which would be more suitable and which the Council can suggest. We are aware of several plots of land which could prove suitable for a facility like this and which are some distance from housing. For whatever reason, Jack Allen has not investigated all of these. We believe however that discussions are still worth having to see if persuasion is possible. We understand you and your colleagues are working on exploring the use of various bits of unused land across the City and this could be an opportunity. One of us would of course be willing to join you and/or your colleagues at any meeting.

You may wonder why we are writing directly to you. We would, under other circumstances, approach Councillor Moore because of his Cabinet role in respect of waste collection etc. He however lives very near the proposed site and we don’t want to put him in a compromising position.

We look forward to your, hopefully positive, reply

Cllr Paula Keaveney Cllr Peter Millea Cllr Richard Oglethorpe

On behalf of residents in Garston.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Friends of Garston Park - from strength to strength

Saturday morning saw a small group from Friends of Garston Park out on a litter pick on the Park (thanks for arranging the good weather Alan!)

Earlier the same week another group met to look at sites for some new benches we have fund raised for.

And we still have the new noticeboard to put up and the wildflower meadow to sort out.

All in all quite a bit's been achieved for the Park.

I would add in some photos at this point, although my camera was either lost or stolen on Friday so I am visually challenged right now.

But I want to give a huge plug to the Friends. Do get involved if you live near the park or use the park. We have details of our meetings at

Pupil Premium

Today's the deadline for comments on how the Pupil Premium should work.

The Pupil Premium is a scheme which means extra money will go to schools with pupils who are from deprived backgrounds. The money will come from outside the schools budget so it is effectivly extra cash to help address some of the inequalities in the education system.

I'm really pleased this is going ahead. It was one of the four main themes in the General Election Manifesto. One of the interesting points is that the money follows the Pupil rather than it being assumed that everyone in a school is in the same situation.

I have written a short piece about this for the Liverpool Party Central blog which is at

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Tuition fees

I've written an article on this for the Liverpool Party Central website which is at this address

Enterprise meeting

I've got a meeting, along with my colleagues Peter Millea and Richard Oglethorpe, with some reps from Enterprise Liverpool later this week.

The people were seeing are basically responsible for litter clearance, street lighting and highways maintenance.

We organised the meeting because between us we had quite a few issues involving places in our ward - Cressington.

If you live in Cressington and want to suggest a location for us to talk to them about or visit can you please let me know. For some reason getting onto the internet on my computer is a bit hit or miss at the moment. But I can pick up e mails on my Blackberry. So rather than post here please e mail me at

I can also raise issues about other parts of South Liverpool but we won't be able to go and have a look as part of this particular meeting.

Parking problems?

We've heard that there are going to be quite a few more people working at or from the Royal Mail sorting office on Whitehedge Road. I imagine this is to do with the imminent closure of Copperas Hill.

Obviously the Royal Mail needs to find places for its staff to work, but we are worried that an extra influx will cause the parking problem in the nearby streets to become unamanageable.

Now there is a car park at the sorting office. And it may be that Royal Mail management have a plan.

So I have written to the sorting office manager to see if we can meet to discuss how they are going to make sure they are good neighbours. We don't have a meeting date yet but I will update with any news.

UPDATE: We now have a date, which is this Wednesday. People living near the sorting office should receive a letter asking for any extra comments.

Monday, 11 October 2010

For goodness sake Enterprise - stop flytipping!

How difficult can it be to remember to pick up the blue bag of litter when one of your own colleagues has put it there for collection? Not difficult you would think yet every week Enterprise Liverpool, the company with responsibility for street cleansing in Liverpool, fail to do this.

So what we have in effect is leglised fly tipping. If I took my domestic rubbish in a bag and left it next to a street light for days and nights on end I feel sure I would soon be in trouble. And yet for some reason this failure to collect is tolerated when the bag is blue.

I am heartily sick of raising this politely and being told action will be taken. It rarely is. Enterprise - for goodness sake get your fingers out!

UPDATE (30 October) The guys from Enterprise are coming to the Environment Committee this week to discuss this further.

Friday, 8 October 2010

South Liverpool Foodbank

I've had a request to help publicise a great local project.

It's the South Liverpool Foodbank which is based at the Bridge Chapel on Heath Road.

The idea behind the scheme is simple. They collect non perishable food and pack it into boxed with enough for roughly three days.

People in sudden need are referred to the project and can collect a box of food. Volunteers also make sure they offer hot drins and a place to chat if wanted.

The scheme's been going for just over a year now and is always in need of donations of food, help with publicity, and general support.

To find out more please go to

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Have your say about waste

Ironically immediately after the bad news about plans for a waste plant in Garston, we hear that Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority is about to start a consultation about plans for waste disposal over the next several years.

Here's a link to the website about the consultation.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Bad news - waste plant in Garston

I have just heard, in the last 20 minutes, that the Planning Inspector has decided that Jack Allen holdings WILL be allowed to build a waste plant at Garston Dock (next to the Cressington Heath housing development).

This is a bad decision for our area.

We had hoped, after the Council's planning committee turned this down, that Jack Allen would look elsewhere. But they fought back with an appeal and expensive legal and PR representation.

Those of us fighting the scheme went to the Public Inquiry and spoke against the scheme.

But sadly the decision has gone against us, and in my view against the people of Garston.

We promised, when we heard the news, to let as many people know as quickly as possible, so that's what my Lib Dem colleagues in Cressington will be doing.

I'll update when I can. At the moment though we are keen that people hear the news.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Clearing up leaves

At the last Environment Committee I asked quite a few questions about plans by the Council for clearing up all the fallen leaves on pavements etc.

Obviously trees losing their leaves in the Autumn is a pretty predictable event but I was worried that in the past the people responsible for clearance didn't seem on top of it.

Time will tell whether this year's clearance programme will be better. The good news is however that we already have a schedule for the work, which is due to start on Monday (4th). The streets on the plan are listed by ward so it can take a while to find your road but you can link to the plan here.

I'm keen however to keep raising this if there are roads that don't get done when they are meant to or anywhere where there is a bad build up. If you want to raise areas with me though, rather than post on here please e mail me at

Monday, 27 September 2010

Are the alleys getting swept?

At the Environment committee earlier this month I asked a series of questions around alley way sweeping. I wanted to know who was responsible for sweeping them after bin collection and how it is monitored.

Well, as I thought, it is in the contract for Enteprise Liverpool and when the wheelie bins etc are emptied from their spot in the alleyways behind houses, the alleys are then meant to be swept by the same crew. This makes a lot of sense.

However I am absolutely convinced that in the majority of cases this does not happen.

A second answer said there was a City Council monitoring system for this but I simply can't see how this can be working.

I know the alleyway behind my house is not swept and this seems to be a pretty common complaint.

I'd like to take this further if there is evidence. If you put your wheelie bin in the alley behind your house for collection and know that your alley isn't swept, can you let me know. I need the the house address and the day of the collection (although I am not planning to pass on individual household details unless you want me to) You can e mail me about this at

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Labour local members voting stats

For those interested in how local Labour members voted in the leadership election this webpage is fascinating.

You can see some areas with pretty poor turnouts and others which very clearly preferred one of the losers.

This is obviously first preferences only but it is still quite illuminating.

Social Housing changes in Liverpool and Merseyside?

The City Council has just kicked off a consultation about changing the way the social housing choice system works.

At the moment people can register on Property Pool and then apply for housing opportunities in different parts of Liverpool.

The idea now is to extend this so that people in Liverpool can apply for vacancies in Wirral, Knowsley etc and vice versa.

The Council is running a consultation on this. If you want to take part, a form and the documents are available here.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Getting rid of Trident?

Could the story about a possible delay on the Trident replacement decision be the first step in the Government getting rid of it?

Three cheers if it is.

Personally I have moral objections to the UK having this weapon. But even without those a replacement would be hugely costly and there are plenty of senior military figures saying that it's not needed and that the money would be better spent in other ways.

It's probably fair to say that this is one of the policy areas causing the most disagreement between the Coalition partners. If some of those who have argued for the replacement are now becoming less sure, it's an excellent time for a bit more lobbying.

Why was no one there?

Back in July the City Council decided to have half an hour set aside at the start of each Full Council for Public Statements and questions etc. A version of this had in fact always existed but it was at the discretion of the Lord Mayor and not very formalised.

Having agreed to identify part of the agenda for this purpose however, the Council then managed to do absolutely nothing to publicise it, with the result that there were no applications to speak at last night's meeting.

Obviously something like this takes a while to get known (although people seemed aware of the previous opportunities)but we all need to do something to make sure that the message gets out.

If you want to know more about how this works, do please drop me an e mail and if I can't answer it myself I will forward it on to someone who can. My e mail is

Friday, 3 September 2010

Read this book....but not that one.

I love reading and I love political biographies/autobiographies. There's certainly a real rush of them at the moment.

Recently I have bought and read the Mandelson book - the Third Man and the Chris Mullin one - Decline and Fall.

And how very different they are. The Mandelson one was, frankly, rather dull and self serving. I actually got bored and didn't really finish it.

The Mullin on the other hand reads well, has lots of insights (some of them surprising) and is clearly by an author who is not trying to justify himself the whole time. Chris Mullin's earlier book - View from the Foothills - was equally good.

So if you are on the lookout for a good book, I thoroughly recommend the Chris Mullin one.

Do the licensing laws need a change?

I've only just come across this Home Office Consultation on changes to the Licensing Act.

There are only a few days left to respond but I am sure anyone who has felt frustrated by the current laws will want to have their say.

What this consultation is testing out are opinions on giving communities and the police more powers in terms of the decisions that are made on, for example, off license applications.

Anyone who has been through a hearing as an objector will know just how far the system seems weighted in favour of the applicant. One of the proposals is to allow "health" to be considered as a factor (something that might well have an effect in some areas)

Liverpool City Council has, as I imagine have licensing authorities all over the country, responded to the consultation. You can find the Council's Licensing Committee's response here.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Defection reasons?

The news earlier this week about Cllr Ian Jobling's defection to the Labour party came as a partial shock. I knew, from talking to Ian, that he wasn't going to stand for election again. I got a sense he was gradually bowing out. I knew he had some difficulties with some of the Coalition announcements but I believed that he, like me, would have felt able to lobby within the party on those things he didn't like. (And after all we have a great opportunity to do that given that any Lib Dem member can attend national conference and it is in Liverpool this September)

The whole subject though got me mulling over the reasons why people change parties (and I mean in the high profile way with the press coverage and the formal letter and all of that).

Thinking about why people defect/change parties (actually I hate the word defect as I think some of the meanings it carries aren't quite right for these situations) it seems to me that there are really three main reasons. I base this on being involved in, and watching politics for a long time. I expect many of those who defect have a mixture of motivations and it can be interesting to work out who has which motivations in which quantities.

First reason - I am going to lose so I will push off to another party now and therfore spare myself the embarassment/loss/ expense etc. This is not the same as changing parties to be offered a "safe seat" as you can make this change without actually expecting to gain anything. You do however, if your old party loses, have a retrospective justification and you can tell yourself you did the right thing. It's also not the same as simply bowing out or even sitting as an independent for a while as you do have to make a choice of destination.

Second reason - my career prospects are being harmed by my existing party/would be much better in another party so I am going. The obvious examples here are people who have been deselected or can see that the new party would offer them more positions. Often promises have to be made up front to the defector to make sure the move happens as this is bridge burning time. Someone who feels they are going to lose, but who is persuaded they will be offered a candidacy in the new party and will win there falls into this category.

Third reason - I have changed my mind on policy or the party I am in is now doing things I don't agree with. I am off to one that I do agree with. Obviously there are two necessary parts to this. You have to have the disagreement on policy and have decided that you can't resolve it through your own lobbying AND you have to have a destination you believe fits your views better. The second condition is important because otherwise you could just walk away from it, or become an independent.

Obviously there are other elements, like whether or not you are comfortable with the culture of a particular party (they can be very different) or whether you get on with the people. But on the whole I think the three categories I have mentioned are the main drivers and those who defect have one of these as their primary motivation (even if they have elements of the others in the "mix".

Clearly the only person who really knows about the mix of Ian's motivation is Ian. But when I read the press coverage I did feel that I had to take some of it with a pinch of salt. Labour is the party that took us to an illegal war and tried to introduce ID cards for goodness sake. These are both things Ian spoke strongly about.

Interestingly some people have commented that the timing of this defection announcement was faulty because it was a "dead news" period. Actually that's not a great argument as certainly Emma Nicholson's defection to the Lib Dems years ago was in another allegedly "dead news" period and was planned to be so. These times, when there is not a lot of news around, can actually be better in terms of maximising coverage.

Linked to this however is the suggestion that the timing was faulty as leaving this until the eve of Lib Dem conference would have had more of an effect. It's a possible argument although from what I know of Ian Jobing he would have had some difficulty in maintaining a pretence/lying between now and mid September.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Park Survey

A quick reminder about the on-line survey about Garston Park. This is organised by the Friends of Garston Park (more info at

The link to the survey is here

Garston waste plant plan update

We'd hoped by now to have the result of the Public Inquiry into the plans by private company Jack Allen Holdings to build a waste plant at Garston Dock (next to the Cressington Heath housing development)

Frustratingly we are going to have to wait longer.

The Inspector has written to the City Council and to the applicant asking for more information. The deadline for that to be received is not until the end of this month. It looks looks as if we may not hear until October.

This is hard for everyone who cares about Garston but there is nothing we can do to speed up this process.

As soon as I have more news I'll blog about it. There is also a website set up by local residents as part of the fight against the scheme. It's at

Blogging interrupted.

Feeling rather guilty looking at the date of my last post. Must be more organised about blogging in future!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Schools delegation to London

Yesterday I was part of the cross-party delegation that went down to London to lobby Lord Hill of the education department about schools funding in Liverpool.

When I say cross party, I was the only non Labour politician there but there's not a lot I can do about the fact that all the Liverpool MPs are currently Labour! (Well not till 2015 anyway)

I don't have a lot of experience of lobbying ministers (well none actually) but it seemed to go well. We got a hearing and some commitments to let us input into the Government's capital spending review.

The Council has an alternative funding plan. It still needs public money but it also includes some borrowing and some private sector investment. I haven't actually seen this plan but the Lib Dems have committed to working to take the ideas forward in a cross party way.

There are two new academies - one in South Liverpool - waiting for news about their building funding situation. They are in a slightly different situation as they weren't included in the earlier BSF announcement. The minister said we should hear about this very soon. So watch this space.


A rather belated update. The news earlier this month (I mean August not July) was that the funding is coming through for the South Liverpool Academy (the one that effectively combines New Heys and St Benedicts).

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Education - why rush the decision.

I am the first to admit that I am not 100 percent informed about Academies.

But it must be wrong to rush the legislation through the way it has been.

Lib Dem MP John Pugh wanted to amend it so that, if the governing body of a school was split on whether to go for Academy status, there would be a ballot of parents. This seems eminently sensible. It wouldn't necessarily stop the process (although if there was a lot of opposition it could) but it would give those most associated with the school a chance to have a say and give the governing body a chance to take the temperature of parents.

His attempt to amend the Bill failed though.

I've pasted below an extract from Hansard (the official record of what is said in Parliament) which covers part of his speech.

Dr John Pugh (Southport) (LD): When were elected this May-God, it seems years ago-we all knew that there was some prospect that politics in this place might never be quite the same again. Many of us, frankly, welcomed that. The huge and welcome influx of new Members gave us all hope that things could possibly be different. That, along with the odd arithmetic of this place and the challenging nature of the country’s problems, seemed to dictate that the way ahead would be through rational consensus and for a while-all too short a while-it appeared that tribalism and command-and-control politics were dead; the Chamber and Committees would be important and the policy would have to be evidence-led, much to the disappointment of the media, whose preference is always for a good scrap.

What do we have with amendments to the Bill, however? We have the spectacle of Ministers who have already told us that they will accept no amendment, period, and the sight of Whips new and old cracking their knuckles off-stage and perfecting basilisk-like stares in the mirror, persuading people not to vote for amendments such as amendment 8 and others that, it could be argued, align with the spirit and improve the detail of the Bill. Paradoxically, they are doing that because they assume that is how coalition politics work. I say paradoxically, because the amendment-denying Ministers in front of us, whose agents the Whips are, seem to be the most mature, civilised and benign advocates of the new politics. I personally cannot associate myself with the recent comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron); (Tim Farron referred to Tories as "toxic) nor can I afford to drink in the Boot and Flogger (this is the pub in which David Davies the Conservative was overheard saying some uncomplimentary things about the Coalition) . I am simply moving an amendment with which the Committee should be comfortable and, frankly, which any Member of any party can and should be free to support.

In the event of a governing body being divided, amendment 8 obliges a school to hold a ballot if a governor or a minority of governors object to an application for academy status. It therefore provides a restraint on a motivated group of governors misrepresenting or riding roughshod over parents’ wishes.

Mr Evans, you might recall that under Mrs Thatcher, in the Education Reform Act 1988, a parental ballot was an essential precondition of the change to grant-maintained status in any school. There were votes across the country on those matters. Sadly, subsequent Governments seem to have lost interests in the views of parents and, in my view, have disempowered parents, with one exception. Tony Blair insisted that the change from grammar school status required a parental ballot and that condition survives and is effectively incorporated in this Bill.

Can anyone in this Chamber give me an argument for why grammar school parents should be balloted before the status of their school changes and parents of children at other schools should not? I am at a loss to find such an argument. Why should grammar school parents have a right that primary school parents, comprehensive school parents and special school parents do not have? Will anyone agree with the former and present me with a good argument for voting against the latter?

Friday, 23 July 2010

Spending money on the right things

The Labour Cabinet this morning agreed to spend nearly £400,000 on a "Liverpool Day" at the Shanghai Expo.

The decision is being "called in" by the Lib Dems and (I understand) also by the Liberal Party.

The "call in" is a sort of request to the Cabinet to think again. It'll be discussed at the Regeneration and Transport Committee next week.

The reason we're challenging this is that we don't think this is the right time for extra spending (and this is extra spending) on events in Shanghai.

Significantly the money allocated to this could instead save the free swimming scheme for children and young people.

I thought people would be interested in exactly what they plan to spend the money on.

Pasted below is a list of the items. It doesn't add up to the full amount but I assume the rest goes on Councillor/officer travel to the event as I know some Labour Councillors are down to go.

Spending list from Cabinet Paperwork.

RLPO Travel & Subsistence Costs 1 60,000.00 Not Contracted Currently

Scaffold & MD Travel & Subsistence Costs 1 2,500.00 Not Contracted Currently

Orchestral Manoeuvre in the Dark Travel & Subsistence Costs 9 ,050.00 Not Contracted Currently

Pagoda Travel & Subsistence Costs 1 2,000.00 Not Contracted Currently

Roger Phillips Travel & Subsistence Costs 3 ,000.00 Not Contracted Currently

Wombats Travel & Subsistence Costs 6 ,000.00 Not Contracted Currently

McCartney 6ix Toys Attendance 7 ,500.00 Not Contracted Currently

Sound City Music Event and Sound Rig from Capital Sound 3 0,000.00 Not Contracted Currently

Liverpool Day Events Overheads 3 7,000.00 Not Contracted Currently

250,000 Lapel Badge Giveaways 2 5,000.00 Not Contracted Currently

Legacy Gift For Expo Museum 1 0,000.00 Not Contracted Currently

Shanghai Side PR 3 7,000.00 Not Contracted Currently


Edge Hill PR success

Three of my PR students who graduated this week are already in jobs in the PR industry. It's great news for them and I'm really pleased they've been able to do well despite scary stories about lack of jobs for graduates.

The University Press team have interviewed the successful trio. This is a link to a story about their fantastic achievements.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

He started it!!!

It's with some apprehension that I write this as I can feel the (not particularly nice) comments coming already!

Last night's Full Council meeting was quite.. well .. lively. There were actually some good debates but a fair amount of name calling and insults as well.

However the thing that struck me was that there seems to be an awful lot of countering an argument by saying something like "well we won't do that because back in (insert year) you didn't do this". The political equivalent of the children's cry of "he started it".

Now I am not saying that sometimes people don't have a point. Obviously it's annoying if you think someone has been rude in the past or done something you don't approve of.

But do we really have to use that in our arguments today? Surely if you don't agree with something the grown up thing to do is to disagree with it for valid current day reasons not because of something no longer relevant that happened in the past. A bizarre example was when I was arguing for the retention of the councillors' question time and one of the arguments against this was to do with how opposition members in the past had been forced to use a sub standard office!

It got me thinking that it would be quite illuminating to categorise the types of arguments and statements made in a typical council meeting and then analyse the proportion of each. Obviously we'd hope that the highest proportion would be serious discussion of an issue based on evidence. My fear is that this would come somewhere near the bottom. (Co incidentally I am looking for a new research topic but I may well give this one a miss!)

We've suggested in the past that we webcast our meetings. I suspect the budget cuts going on will see the end of that. But I do feel that a webcast which was recorded and then played back to people may well change the way some of us speak and argue.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Flooding and downpours - what next?

Did you get stuck in all that rain and flooding yesterday? Parts of Liverpool seemed to grind to a halt. We had road closures, school closures and the predictable closure of the rail service to Hunts Cross.

Obviously there's nothing organisations like Councils can do about the fact that it's raining. But they can make sure that whatever systems exist actually are capable of dealing with downpours... and after yesterday I am not sure that all of ours are.

I'm told the Environment agency is saying that we can expect more of this sort of weather linked to climate change. The Met Office certainly says that downpours like yesterdays are not uncommon.

So, apart from having a moan, what can we do?

I'm keen that Liverpool City Council does what it can to make sure that we (and by that I mean the City area not just the Council) has the best possible systems for dealing with weather like this.

So I've asked the Chair of the Regeneration and Transport Committee, which meets next week, if we can add this as a special item.

Here's the e mail I sent last night.


Dear Beatrice

Today (tues 2oth) Liverpool has seen severe transport and other problems caused by a failure of existing systems to deal with the heavy rain.

This has included road closures, school closures and other problems. .many commuters have found it difficult to travel and its clear that commercial activities have been hit.

While the City Council clearly isn't responsible for every single system, I believe it does have a duty to ensure that roads are passable and that citizens and businesses can get around.

I am therefore asking for a special item to be added to the agenda for the regeneration and transport select committee. I believe we need to seriously enquire if in Liverpool we are equipped to deal with heavy rain incidents like this and if we are not we have a duty to work with partners and others to improve the situation.

I believe the regeneration and transport select committee is exactly the right body to do this and hope you will agree to place this on the agenda, and ensure attendance by the relevant people, for the meeting on 29th July.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Full Council tomorrow

Tomorrow (21st July) it's Full Council.

I've got some questions in - one on a Labour budget pledge, a couple on democracy related issues, one about fire safety and deafness (that's to the Fire Authority rep) and one on the DNA database (that's to the police authority rep).

Sometimes you get the written bit of your answers in advance. I've had some of mine although in at least one case to call it an "answer" is stretching the English language quite a bit. It'll be interesting to see if I get any further with it.

The written bits of the answers do, I think, get published on line but if I am wrong about that I'll publish them, plus anything else I glean, on this blog.

Cycling in Speke

A quick reminder about the Cycle Speke dates. If you have a bike this is a good way of meeting people and getting a bit of exercise.

Join in cycle rides, starting at 2 p.m and lasting about 2 hours. Depart
from Lifestyles, Austin Rawlinson, Parklands, Speke.
Participants must have a roadworthy bike. Free bike safety check
available before each ride.

Dates: 1st August
5th September
3rd October
7th November
5th December

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Getting ready for snow... again!

I've got a motion down for Full Council on Wednesday (21st).

It may seem odd to want to discuss snow etc in the middle of summer but I'm thinking back to the bad snow and what happened as a result last winter, and how we might do better this time.

We don't know yet whether this motion will be discussed on Wednesday nignt (only five get picked) But if it isn't it'll either be discussed at Committee or the Cabinet members will respond.


Council notes the review work already done by officers who have looked at the effects of the severe weather in January this year and what lessons can be learned about dealing with such a situation in future.

Council however believes that more needs to be done in terms of including partners and elected members to make sure not just that we are prepared for snow but for other weather linked crises.

Council believes that more could be done in engaging community groups, communities and residents in planning and reviewing. Communities have large amounts of local knowledge and are often rich with suggestions that could make planning for, and dealing with, crises much easier in future.

Council also believes that there are groups in our communities which would welcome a more formal or organised role in dealing with crises – whether this be acting as storage points for grit and equipment or acting as co ordinators for volunteers.

Council therefore requests the Cabinet Members for Regeneration and Transport and Environment and Climate Change to ensure a plan is produced which results in communication with and engagement with communities and community groups so that we are all more resilient should there be severe weather this winter. Council further requests that this plan be tabled for discussion at both the Regeneration and Environment and Climate Change Select Committees.

Picking up Litter

Saturday was the first of our Friends of Garston Park "litter picks". A small group of us set out from the Leisure Centre to clear the park of any litter lying around.

First impressions - no much litter at all. Second impressions - fly tipping central at a couple of areas near Garston Old Road.

We wanted Friends of Garston Park to be more than a talking shop. So we've got a commitment to do some litter picking every two months.

If you want to get involved - either in the litter picks or our meetings - please get in touch. We've got our own website at

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Read this book!

I buy books all the time and the house feels like a library... but the other day I came across one that literally had me laughing on the train all the way home.

Robin Ince's Bad Book Club is what it sounds like

Robin Ince has gathered up bargain books from charity shops all over the country and takes a look at genres from romance to autobiography, from science to self help.

It's an absolute hoot so if you want a really amusing read, with some extra insights thrown in , do get it.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

"Paying" politicians

Earlier this week I was in one of those meetings I would really rather not have to do.

At Full Council next week we are being asked to approve the recommendation for an effective doubling of the Council Leaders' pay. I'm not going into the pros and cons here as they've been well rehearsed.

As a result of the earlier debate however, Warren Bradley, Steve Radford and I met the panel of individuals who make the recommendations to ask some questions.

I was very concerned that what we are being asked to support is based on a report with virtually no evidence. Even those who support a pay hike would, I hope, believe that councillors ought to be considering reports with statements backed up by evidence and in which statements have clear relevance. I hope they would also believe that this should be considered without reference to the individual circumstances of the people involved (difficult though that is). We were promised the back up information to evidence the arguments, so hopefully that will arrive by Wednesday.

But we went on from talking about this one example to discussing how this whole issue of payments to elected members ought to be treated.

At the moment it seems to be rather ad hoc. Individuals or groups apply to the panel about particular circumstances and the panel then consider and either agree or don't with what's being said.

I have to say I felt very uncomfortable with this . I suspect that even if I felt I was hugely underpaid I would never as an indvidual feel easy about asking them to look into it. If this was my actual employment, I wouldn't hesitate. But because we are talking about public service I just wouldn't want to make an approach, and I am sure others would feel the same. After all you don't stand for election as a Councillor in order to earn money and there is a blurring between career and public service here that is quite worrying.

It also makes little sense to do this in an ad hoc way. It means the independent panel can't really control their workload as who's to say what level of contact or requests they will get. It could be none.. or it could be something that suddenly needs a lot of research and it's not really fair on them to put them in that position.

The idea came up that the panel ought to take a complete look at everyone's roles, and perhaps carry out a series of interviews to really understand what elected members do. The assumption in the past that it is all about turning up to meetings is false now as I reckon for every hour I spend at an official meeting I spend many more doing other councillor stuff. There was quite a bit of enthusiasm for a proper review so I expect we'll see that happening. If everything is looked at at once it will at least seem fair and depersonalised.

It's one of these topics that is quite hard to discuss. We need to make sure that people who are not independently wealthy can still be Councillors and that does mean some money. But we also need to make sure that we don't turn it into just another career option because surely it's about more than that.

I don't have the answers and this might be one of those subjects where actually there are no easy answers. But we need to sort out a way of doing this that doesn't end up revolving around personalities.

Things to say about housing?

The City Council is doing a survey about housing in Liverpool. They'll be making some phone calls to selected people but anyone can take part in the survey on line, so if you have views to give it's a good way to make sure you can give them.

The survey is here.

Footpath Campaign

Some time ago I discussed, with a local resident, the problems of the two footpaths that run to Cressington Station (either side of the railway line). We spent a bit of money on improving the surface, and Merseyrail have said they'll keep an eye out for litter.

However the potentially bigger problem is the lack of light. Ok there is light at the end but the paths themselves are pretty dark which at night,especially in winter, is a problem.

Residents said they wanted to campaign for improvements, so as part of that Peter, Richard and I have kicked off a petition which is aimed at the landowner Network Rail.

We haven't finished collecting signatures yet, but expect to soon.

As part of the efforts to get something done we also wrote a motion on this and got it passed at the South Liverpool District Committee last night (well Peter and I did - because Richard works for Merseytravel and the motion also mentions Merseytravel he couldn't put his name on it).

The text is below. I'll update on how we get on on this issue but I suspect this is something that's going to take time and persistence.

Motion Text from Agenda - 13th July 2010.

South Liverpool District Committee acknowledges residents’ concerns about the dark and threatening nature of the Network Rail owned passageways connecting Eastern Drive and Broughton Drive with Knowsley Road and Cressington railway station (all in Liverpool 19) at night-time.

This is evidenced by support from residents in the area for a petition being collected locally.

The district Committee further believes that the lack of lighting and feeling of lack of safety is a deterrent to local people wishing to use public transport.

The Committee therefore instructs the clerk of the Committee to write to Network Rail on its behalf asking them to acknowledge the very real concerns of residents and councillors and to look into how it can install lighting on these footpaths.

The Committee further instructs the clerk to send the terms of this motion to MITA to ensure that that public body is aware of the situation facing its customers.

The committee further calls for an update on the progress of this request to the next relevant neighbourhood partnership working group and the next District Committee.