The importance of Cities

More than once yesterday I sat in the UN building in New York and thought of the similarities between what we were discussing on a global basis and the reality of the challenges that we face in a daily basis back home in the Liverpool City Region.

Our Focus yesterday was twofold:

Firstly to ensure that local government was placed firmly at the heart of UN policy and activity. We were very much helped in this regard by the fact that Joan Clos the UN official who is in charge of the HABITAT programmes is a former Mayor of Barcelona.

This discussion was itself in two parts. Firstly, we looked at what local government could do. I have no doubt that at its best local government can work in the “parts other bits of government cannot reach”. International as well as national experience is that central government programmes to deal with poverty, illiteracy, poor health and poor sanitation rapidly become tied up in bureaucracy, inertia, lose focus and in some parts of the world become corrupt. The fact is that it is only on the spot that programmes can be fine tuned to meet local needs in a simple and cost effective way. The fact is that councils and their Councillors know their patches well. Their strong local leadership really makes a difference.

Secondly with regard to local government we looked at the capacity of local government to deal with intense problems. In most parts of the world local government is underfunded. In England we have been the subject of a cortical congress report which says that the Government passes obligations onto councils but not the wherewithal to carry out those functions. Those problems can be compounded in many ways by national legislation and practice. In Mexico for example Mayors and Councillors must stand down after three years. In Uganda there is an 80% turnover every four years when local elections take place. So we spent time talking to Mr Clos about how the international institutions of local government could work together to expand capacity and provide practical support to colleagues in the developing world.

The second main area of discussions as about the role of cities. In the 80s the UN programmes and many national governments assumed that if you did the right things in rural areas you could stem the flow of people migrating from rural to urban. Not so! In fact during the 15 year period covered by Habitat I the population of cities grew by 1.8 billion and the population of rural areas declined by 300 million.

Put simply cities are the powerhouse of growth throughout the world. This was. Vividly explained by the representatives of Bogota and São Paulo birth of whom represented 20 million people – the population of Scotland, Northern England, NW England and Yorkshire and the Humber put together.

If we plan our cities right they can be great places to live. If we don’t they can be places where vast numbers of people live in festering slums, barrios and favelas.

We concluded, where many national governments including our own do not that special emphasis needed to be placed on city development AND the relationship that those cities have with the countryside around them.

As a place the UN is rather uninspiring. Built in the 60s it is showing it’s aged and is fading and creaking like the deck access blocks in Netherley before we pulled them down.

Today back to work in the UN building. Having talked to the boss we will be spending the day talking with his staff and our international partners and I will be showing the excellent presentation of Liverpool that the council prepared for me.

Another exciting instalment tomorrow!

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New York Report – Part One

At 7.30 in the morning UK time I woke up as usual to start work. Unfortunately here in New York it was 2.30. I eventually gave up trying to sleep at 4 a.m. and started to read some documents I was given last night.

So much seems the same between the US and the UK but so much is different. Two things really struck me on the way in from the airport.

Firstly a huge sign at the entrance to a hospital, “serious accident lawyers”. I suspect that there are no solicitors anywhere in a hospital in the UK and I there were they would not have their own entrance and huge sign. On the plane I sat next to a lawyer from Tennessee who told me that the US has more lawyers per head of the population than any other country in the world. Whilst she respected her Country’s legal systems she regretted that the law schools are still churning out tens of thousands more lawyers per year.

Whilst in the UK she did a little research into the NHS because health is her area of law. She was amazed at how it was still free at the point of access for anyone who needs it and wished that Obamacare, which was bitterly opposed by the right wing in the US, came nowhere near providing the same level of service to the poor.

Secondly, when arrived at the airport I asked where the train was to get me into to the centre. I was told that there wasn’t one. It took ages to find the bus service which was efficient but wholly inadequate for the numbers of people coming out of the airport. Imagine if the main airports for London had no train access. It would be chaos. As soon as we left the airport we went straight into a traffic jam and stayed there for much of the way into the City Centre. Once again I reflected that the wealthiest national on earth seemed incapable of providing a decent public infrastructure. At times the traffic controls seemed more like New Delhi than New York.

Within an hour of arriving I started an intensive series of meetings which will last until I leave for home at 1p.m. on Thursday. Sitting in a meeting room on the 30th floor of the hotel overlooking the river with mates from around the world we discussed the last time we had met in Liverpool. They all agreed with me that the view and ambience was much better in Liverpool which I am sure was totally unconnected with the promise of a drink that I had made. I was delighted with the memories that they all had of the meeting in our City. In particular they all loved the Town Hall and the spectacular dinner that was provided in the Anglican Cathedral.

We looked at some internal problems being faced by UCLG but most of our time was spent preparing for today’s meetings. The first three will be held in the hotel before we walk over to the first meeting in the UN itself – the first of 4. This afternoon we will meet Joan Clos the Secretary General of Habitat III which is the UN organisation which is looking at the future of cities. the discussions will be so relevant to the discussions that are taking place in the UK now. They are all about harnessing the power of cities by devolving powers to cities and conurbations. They are about creating sustainable communities in terms of both the environment and the economy,

My views on this are well known and I have recently blogged about devolution to cities as part of the devolution to Scotland debate. Work at the UN should help us shape international, regional and national thinking on this matter. Part of the work for us though is ensuring that local and regional government is up to the challenges that should be given them. In our view there are parts of local government thoughout the World including the UK which are not up to the challenge and lack the vision and drive to make devolution work so tomorrow I will be talking about capacity building work done by the LGA both in England and in Commonwealth countries through the Commonwealth Local Government Programme.

I also have another speaking slot in the UN itself when I will talk about the history of housing and economic regeneration in Liverpool for the past 150 years. A member of the policy team in the council has done a really excellent set of pictures which I will talk round. They will make me and more importantly our city look good!

I will miss a council meeting on Wednesday but I hope that my fellow Councillors and my constituents will agree that the opportunity to once more present the positive side of our city to opinion leaders from all over the World was too good to miss. I am the only UK representative on the Global Task force and I am determined to make the lost of the opportunity.

I will keep people informed about what I am doing whilst over here
and would, of course, be pleased to talk to people on my return.

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Local Government and the United Nations


At 5 a.m. on Sunday I will be up and off to New York to take part in 3 days of talks at the United Nations. There I will be joining more than 40 representatives of local government throughout the World and talking about how the UN and its programmes could help local government throughout the world fight ignorance, disease, squalor and famine. I will be the only UK representative at the meeting which arises from my work as the UK representative on UCLG the World local government body.

Many people do not realise the work that the UN and affiliate bodies, such as WHO, UNESCO and UNICEF, do but their work is very important.

They are perhaps seen most often in flash points where they provide armed forces to ‘police’ conflict zones. The blue berets are an internationally respected body which, of course, does not exist. The blue berets are work by the troops of countries that participate in the UIN and come under UN control and command during that period. Because there is no politics to the UN the role of their peacekeepers is usually respected, however over the years many have died trying to keep the world’s peace.

They are most often talked about in crisis times. The Security Council is the one that will ultimately decide whether there is a true legal basis for legal action by external countries. Bush and Blair fought hard to get UBN support for their dodgy decision to invade Iraq. In fact they didn’t really get it but ahd enough to give the pretext of support.

But the real work of the UN is much, much quieter than that. They engage in much behind the scenes diplomacy. They have massive aid programmes in which they bring together coalitions of willing nations to help deal with natural or man-made disasters. Some Countries such as our own are massive contributors to such aid programmes. We can help through the UN in areas where it might be difficult to intervene as a single nation. Often we work with the UN and the Commonwealth to bring aid and succour to areas in desperate need.

Ironically I am writing this at a time when a Bill is being debated in Parliament to set in law the 0.7% of GDP which the UK gives in international aid. I am proud as a Liberal Democrat that it is a Liberal Democrat Bill moved by Michael Moore MP and strongly supported by Liberal Democrat MPs. It is not only a humanitarian thing to do but also a very practical thing for our Country. The friendship we engender by such aid work reaps benefits in our diplomatic and trade work throughout the World.

I am not going to talk war or defence at the UN. I might leave that to my name sake Colonel Richard Kemp, the former Head of the Land Forces in Afghanistan! I am going to talk about how the work that the UN does and tries to do impacts on the delivery of services throughout the World and even in this Country. Many people think that the UN is only about poor countries and doing things for and to those countries. In fact the sorts of things that the UN sets out as long term ambitions and then outputs and outcomes affect what we do in the UK and even in Liverpool more than you might think.

Firstly our aid effort massively takes into account the directions set by the UN. This means that our efforts sit alongside those of other developed countries so that there is coherence and cohesion in work in places like Africa.

Secondly, the EU takes accounts of those directions in setting down targets for social improvement in members countries.’ The Objective One and Objective Two and other programmes can be seen to be part of the UN initiative.

Thirdly those targets and the targets set by our own government trickle down to every council so we too because part of the UN’s drive.

We must never forget that there are people in Liverpool who are hungry, ill housed, ill educated and ill. Not, of course, on the scale of most of sub-Saharan Africa but in terms of relative poverty very poor for our rich nation. It is important therefore that we understand that our effort is part of a national effort, a European effort and a world effort to eradicate these things.

Whilst I am in New York I will be making a presentation not only to the UN Grouping but also to two American local government associations which include Washington, Chicago and New York. That presentation shows forcefully the problems that we have had going back to the 1850s but also showing the solutions that we have come up with over the years. I hope that by going (and even missing a council meeting) I will ebb able to add to the debate. I also hope that I can be part of the diplomatic effort to bring back to trade and commerce to our City from our former colony over the pond!


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In Praise of……..… the Isle of Man

TynwaldTynwald – Home of the Manx Parliament


For 4.5 days last week I was in the Isle of Man and I had a really great time.

I went because of the way that the Manx Government has been a major player in our recent International Festival of Business. Erica, as Lord Mayor, had officially opened one of their events and I went to another one. Erica and I also sat with two Manx Ministers at the final IFB Dinner.

Erica and I have been to the Isle of Man on many occasions. It’s a great place and only 20 minutes by plane or about 4 hours by ferry. Either way it is incredibly quick to get to and has a wonderful scenery and interesting things to do. More of the holiday opportunities later!

It is, of course an independent nation. It has a reputation as a tax haven which if it ever was true is no longer the case. Yes it has a lower tax regime than other countries which some people take advantage of but it has open and transparent banking systems that are signed up to all European and world banking standards. This nation of just 85,000 has 22 strands of industry and development which includes, for example, being one of the leading registries in the world for ships and aircraft. It does not pretend to be a major manufacturing state although it does offer some very hi-tech manufacturing jobs. It makes much of its money by selling services to the rest of the World.

In Liverpool we used to know the IoM well. Indeed it used to be known as the Scouse Riviera. Up to 7 boats would cross to and from the island on a busy Bank Holiday but that trade went quickly when budget travel and packaged holidays opened up Spain and Italy. Liverpool University used to have a world renowned marine research facility in Port Erin which, alas closed some 10 years ago.

In my discussions with Ministers, including briefly a chat with the Chief (Prime) Minister, Alan Bell, it became obvious that there were 3 ways in which opportunities could be developed:

Firstly, the interchange of goods and services to the Liverpool City Region and the wider North West. The Government was very clear that it had over-emphasised the relationships with the City and London whilst not looking at the opportunities just over their horizon. With 1.65 million people the Liverpool City region could and should be a major area for two way commercial activity. The Department of Economic Development are looking at ways in which we might help them with some of their economic and commercial starnds and we will then follow uo those opportunities.

Secondly, there could be more mutual assistance between the Governments (and to a lesser extent councils) and the LGA and our work of peer review and peer support. So much of what the IoM does is modelled on what we do. Most of their professional practices and structures (for good or bad) model ours. There are many opportunities for looking at good practice with this again being a two way and not a one way trade. There would also be the opportunity to look at governance issues with the Municipal Association which is a sort of cross between the LGA and NALC. Outside Douglas, which is the only Council with Councillors, the island has commissioners sitting on what we would class as parish or two councils.

Lastly there seem to be opportunities for helping the Manx Government improve contacts within the wider worlds of the UK, Europe and the Commonwealth. Just as what we do impacts on them so does what Europe does. We can help them with their influencing work because in many, but not all, cases what they want to say is the same as what we want to say.

Douglas Council was fascinating. I met the Mayor and Leader and saw that their council functioned in much the same way as ours in Liverpool. I exchanged a present from the Lord Mayor of Liverpool for a present to the Lord Mayor of Liverpool. In both cases that present was a book which told of our proud histories.

The area that I would like to explore most quickly would be that of two way tourism. My mate, Ken Perry, came over to join me and we had a good couple of days. We quickly regressed to the 8 year old state that our wives think we live in and went by two trams to the top of Snaefell. The next day we took a steam train to Port Erin. I ate at three restaurants whilst I was there and all were excellent. Especially, ‘Little Fish’ on the North Quay. They also have two good breweries Bushys and Okells which serve good ale and there are apparently micro-breweries growing up as well. Good ale; good food and steam trains – what more could a 61 year old lad ask for!
I believe that there many opportunities for multi-centre holidays and simply us going there and the Manxies coming here for weekend breaks.

My last tasks were to spend some time with the Liberal Vannin Party our sister Party on the Island. LibVan has 2 MHKs (MPs) out of 24 but none of the 11 MLCs (a sort of House of Lords) are from the Party. Our leader there, Kate Beecroft, is a very energetic Leader and I met a number of the people who will be standing in the General Election in 2016. I felt very much at home in their company. But I feel at home with liberals everywhere. As we explored our common beliefs I saw that there are things that both Parties could do together as there are things that both states could do together.

In many ways the problems faced by the politicians (Party politicians or not) are the same as the UK. Austerity is forcing changes some of which are bad but many of which are good. Services are becoming more customer rather than producer centric. Old departmental barriers to good services are being torn down and more value for money will result.

I hope that things will come from my visit and will be enthusiastically following up the contacts that I have made. Yes of course we must chase for the opportunities of countries like China but we should not overlook the opportunities of a small but resolute nation just 20 minutes away in a plane

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A response to my Rotherham letter from the Mayor of Liverpool

Last Friday I wrote to the Mayor of Liverpool stressing my concerns at the way Liverpool had been brought into the Rotherham question.

I have just received a reply from him. This is not a criticism of speed because he is, apparently , on holiday. I also suspect that because he is on holiday he has not been able to be fully briefed about what has been said by who and when. However I do not believe that this reponse is adequate. But its up to the people of Liverpool to decide whether it is so I attach the response here:

Anderson, Joe (Mayor of Liverpool)
Today at 6:51 PM
Dear Councillor Kemp

Thank you for your letter dated 29 August, which I have only had the chance to fully digest. You will be aware that on Friday 29 August I issued a public statement in response to the independent report commissioned by Rotherham MBC. A copy of that statement is available on the council’s Liverpool Express website here and I was truly shocked at the extent of the appalling circumstances which were revealed. For your reference, following publication of the independent report last week, noting Ged Fitzgerald’s role as former Chief Executive, I did speak directly with the author of the report Alexis Jay, and have also tried to speak with Rotherham MBC’s current Chief Executive, Martin Kimber.

Whilst I have made my position clear on this matter, I will address some of the inaccurate points in your letter. Your understanding of the communication sent from Rotherham MBC appears to be confused. Mr Kimber has stated in his response to the investigation that ‘it would be important for the current employers of those senior officers who worked in Rotherham’s child care services department during the critical period, and who are still involved in professional practice, to read the independent inquiry and form their own conclusions as to their role’. The City Council however has received no such communication from Rotherham MBC in the terms you have suggested. Further, I am certainly not aware of alleged comments you have recounted from the current President of Solace, although I have absolutely no intention of handling this matter in the manner in which you suggest.
I will be discussing the matter with Mr Fitzgerald and seeking clarification in relation to his role at the time. Notwithstanding, it is important to correct the wording you have used in your letter. Mr Fitzgerald has already indicated that he did not say that the report was ‘anecdotal, used partial information and methodologically unsound’ but that this was how professionals in Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police treated the research. I do not see how this has any implications for the way ‘information’ is dealt with in Liverpool, but if you can logically explain how you arrived at this conclusion, I would be grateful to receive it.

Whilst you may seek to sensationalise the issue and react in a kneejerk manner, as I have stated, I intend to talk in detail with Mr Fitzgerald when I return shortly from holiday and deal with the matter in full possession of all the facts.
Yours sincerely
Joe Anderson
Mayor of Liverpool


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We’ve learnt nothing so there will be another Rotherham

Mmmm, tasty hands

Mmmm, tasty hands

All children have a right to a happy childhood

Reading the report on Rotherham, which I have now done twice, is very like reading the reports about Victoria Climbie and Baby Peter in Haringey.

I know that in some ways the cases are different. The two Haringey cases concerned violence to a baby and a child. Duplicitous parents and carers were able to pull over the eyes of concerned or in some cases unconcerned staff who were unable to grasp the enormity of what was being done. In Rotherham it was sexual grooming in which it would appear council and other staff whilst not being implicitly involved certainly seem not to have acted when action was necessary.

But the real things that link the two cases are institutional inertia and professional indifference. To protect our troubled children we seem to need an army of people from different organisations to bring their professionalism to bear. Some of the professionals have taken years to acquire their ‘ism’ and have charts across the role to prove how clever they are at that ‘ism’!

In Rotherham that army included residential care workers, front line social workers, senior level social workers, council legal and financial and general management staff, Police, health workers, health visitors, charities, community groups, religious groups, teachers, educational welfare officers……. Et al. All earning a living; all protecting their organisation and all protecting themselves.

In Rotherham and Haringey the services were not drawn around the needs of the child but around the needs of the organisation. I regret to say, as someone who is hugely supportive of local councils, that the chief culprit in Rotherham is the Council. Either there appeared to be no high level appreciation of the industrialised abuse of children in the area or they did know and preferred for whatever reason to look the other way.
When reports came their way they were pushed aside. When whistleblowers blew they were either ignored or were harassed from bringing the bad news of what was happening out of the dark. Why were senior politicians and managers so poor? Why did they have so little comprehension about what was happening in their community. I can understand that they might not, to begin with at any rate, have believed what was being reported to them. Almost all of us find it hard to grapple even with the concept of abuse on the scale of Rotherham. But from 2002 onwards there was no excuse. A report was presented both local to local government in Rotherham and in London to central government. The report was quite clear although a little out in some minor respects. It portrayed things which should not have been brushed aside but which should have been investigated further.

I do have some sympathy with the Council – (although not much). As indicated above society seems to adopt a very different approach to other people’s children than when we deal with our own. When you deal with your own child you take on the job largely unqualified. No-one can or does teach you to be a parent. Although some help and training can be given you don’t know what it is like until you do it. Of course Mums and Dads get help from professionals. We all need help from the teacher, the health visitor, grandma and grandpa, neighbours and many others. But we get on the job of muddling through because we love our children and have a relationship with them.
That was the original concept of social work. When Seebohm pioneered the concept of social workers in the post WWII period he thought that a social worker would be in local parentis for children and in a different way for people with different challenges including the one that gets us all in the end – ageing! His idea was that a concerned person would be attached to each person in need. They would form the bond and contact against which other interventions and professionals could interact. But 15 different professionals from 14 different organisations did not save Baby Peter. Thousands of people over 15+years in Rotherham looked the other way or were just incompetent in dealing with the actions of skilled and scheming sexual predators.

So the Mayor of Liverpool, concerned about the involvement of our own Chief Executive whilst the Chief Executive of Rotherham during the period, has called for a public enquiry. Another one?! We have had public enquiries about issues like this until they have come out of ears but nothing has changed.

Yes there needs to be a full investigation of who knew what; who did what and who did nothing over that period 1999-2013. People need to be held to account and both officers and members should be made to face the consequences of their inactions. It would seem to me that both officers and members could equally be found guilty of malfeasance in public office for their roles during this period. If so they should face the full force of the law.

But we know what is wrong. Too many cooks spoiling the broth. Too many institutions; too many professionals; not enough love; not enough compassion; too much hand wringing; too much buck passing; too much paper work; not enough cuddles. It is the system that is so very, very wrong and until we change the system the Police, the Council, the Health Service will all be able to continue to play musical chairs to dodge responsibility until the last one without a chair is the poor front line social worker whose pleas were not heeded and who were not supported by those above them in the posh suits, and the deep chairs.

Have an enquiry by all means but not just into Rotherham but into the way we have over-professionalised and over-organised our care of our troubled children. The Government must set the lead in the development of a new mechanism. Its own response – the ‘troubled family’s initiative’ is too slow, too cumbersome and has not brought back into the centre the lessons needed to enable the change to be directed. A review could be done in months. We cannot afford to wait 2/3 years for a public enquiry into the activities in just one geographic area.

By the time a General Election is held all 3 of the main Parties or any combination of the same Parties if there is a coalition, should be ready to press the button and shake the child care tree to bring about the change which has been so evidently required for the past decade.

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How Liverpool Should respond to the Rotherham Report

Today I have written to the Mayor of Liverpool suggesting that he needs to respond to what is coming out of Rotherham and the implications that it might have for Liverpool. I understand that following my letter Mayor Anderson has made a statement but at the time of posting this I have been unable to get a copy.

I want to make it clear that I making no suggestions about Mr Fitzgerald or suggesting any specifc actions that should be taken. I do feel however that as Mr Fitgerald’s involvement has been made public then he should be given the right to respond to what has been said publicy.Indeed I think he has a public duty to respond.

16, Dovedale Road,

Liverpool L18 1DW

07885 626913


Joe Anderson,


Liverpool City Council,

Dale Street,

Liverpool 1

29th. August 2014

Dear Joe,

Re:      Ged Fitzgerald and Rotherham

I am sure that you will have been as concerned as I have been about the affairs that have been unravelling before our eyes over the past few days about the Children’s Services in Rotherham.

I understand from the press that the Current Chief Executive of Rotherham has forwarded a copy of the report to all councils where former Rotherham senior staff are working.

I note also that the current President of Solace made clear that it was the responsibility of current employers of such staff to investigate what those staff members did whilst in Rotherham and also to examine whether that has implications for their current employers.

On that basis I would be grateful if you would let me know:

  1. Whether you have yet received the report;
  2. Whether you have yet been able to study it; and
  3. How you intend to take forward the suggested investigation.

I believe it is particularly important that such a review should take place quickly for 2 reasons

i) Professor Jay said that the content of the report which Mr Fitzgerald thought was, “anecdotal, used partial information and was methodologically unsound” was largely accurate and that children could have been protected if the report had been taken seriously. This could have implications for the way information is viewed and used within our own Council by senior staff; and

ii) In October Mr Fitzgerald is due to become the President of SOLACE, the Professional body for Chief Executives and other senior council staff and therefore the public face of all Chief Officers in England. It would clearly help him to have questions about his tenure in Rotherham cleared up before and if he assumes that role.

I look forward to hearing from you your proposals in this matter.

Kind Regards,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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