In praise of…. Mozambique

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His Excellency Carlos dos Santos, High Commissioner of Mozambique with Hugh Richmond Business Development Manager of Clarke Energy in Knowsley

For the past two days it has been my pleasure to break off from normal politics to do something really useful! I have been hosting a visit to Liverpool by The High Commissioner (Ambassador) of Mozambique to the UK, Sr Carlos Dos Santos and his lovely wife Isabel.

There were really three purposes for the visit:
Firstly, to let people know about Mozambique and I certainly learnt a lot! It is the only former Portuguese Colony to join the Commonwealth (although there are two French former colonies and two more former French colonies wanting to join). It is twice the land mass of the UK with only 25,000,000 people living in it and it is a place of great opportunity. Its economy has grown at between 7 and 8% a year for the last decade. They have vast mineral deposits and now have found natural gas reserves which will make them the third biggest producer of LNG in the World with more potential reserves being explored in coming years. They want help; they need help and they are very hopeful that the UK will be able to provide on terms that are mutually beneficial. They have a large natural deep water port being constructed in North Mozambique with not only a new international airport which opened last weekend but in the time we have talked about HS2 they have constructed a 900km railway line to service it! The High Commissioner visited the Echo and appeared on the Roger Phillips Show to talk about these opportunities.
Secondly, we then visited two Universities, Liverpool JMU and Liverpool Hope. Only the shortage of time prevented a visit to the Liverpool University. The opportunities for joint activity are great. Mozambique is massively expanding its education services as you might expect with financial support available and a high birth rate. They need help in establishing their education infrastructure; in filling it with trained teachers and then in providing undergraduate and post graduate relationships in the next few years across a wide range of disciplines. Both the Universities can help with these and both showed a readiness to take things further in the New Year.
Thirdly, we looked at trade opportunities. In this we were greatly helped by Lynne Gillen the Africa specialist of UKTI in the North West. In the morning we visited the Chamber of Commerce. Here we looked at ways in which the High Commissioner can work with the Chamber of Commerce to support local companies wishing to export products and services to his Country. A number of very practical proposals will eb followed up in the New Year. We next visited Liverpool Vision where an explanation as given of IFB 2016. The High Commissioner was very interested in this and promised to take details back not only to his own Government but to look at ways in which all the High Commissioners and Ambassadors from Africa in the UK could involve their Countries in what should be a great event.
In the afternoon we visited 2 great companies. Clarke Energy in Kirkby is already targeting Mozambique and the High Commissioner, who rapidly saw that the localised electricity generation capacity was just what was required has offered to help with further introductions to both public and private sector contacts. The second company in Speke is Yanco, a company which produces very low cost mosquito extermination products. Again the High Commissioner saw tremendous opportunities here and has offered to look for local distributors which can not only sell the product but also deal with the necessary licensing of the product by the Ministry of Health.
So what will happen as a result of this visit? Well its early days yet but the High Commissioner thinks that the following are possible:
• Work with the Chamber of Commerce to identify companies that can export to Mozambique
• A visit to Liverpool by all the High Commissioners from Southern Africa
• A visit to Liverpool from a deep water port in North Mozambique; representatives of that council; representatives of a University and a College; representatives of the Government; representatives of businesses looking for two way trade opportunities.
• Clarke Energy and Yanco may be assisted in exhibiting their products in (Southern) Africa in a number of ways in the early summer.
• Enhanced African participation in IFB 2016.
So altogether not a bad two days’ work. I believe that Africa will become much more important in economic terms over the next 20 years than it has been hitherto. There is tremendous affection for the UK through the Commonwealth – an affection which can appropriately take advantage of to stimulate our own trade and industry. We spend far too much time looking at opportunities in China which never seem to materialise. There is a whole continent where our Country has many friends. The visit by Sr dos Santos shows that these opportunities can be realised to the mutual benefit of the UK and Africa. I look forward to welcoming a much bigger delegation back to Liverpool from Mozambique next year.
It also shows me how right we are to develop a Liverpool Commonwealth Association here to improve and develop those links. There are another 53 Commonwealth Countries out there. If we can develop the links with them that we can clearly make with Mozambique then the Liverpool City Region can have a rich future indeed.
If any business person reading this would like to know more about trading with Mozambique in general or southern Africa more generally please let me know and I would be delighted to include you in future discussions. I must make it clear that I will do this as a councillor free of charge and not as a consultant looking for paying clients!!

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Why the £10,000 for the ‘luvvies do’ shows all that is wrong with the council

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Kim Jong-Un would feel at home in Liverpool City Council

Sometimes politics can be very complicated and local government can be very complex for outsiders (the ones that pay their taxes to make it work!) We deal in £millions in capital and revenue spent over many years with inputs from lots of places and lots of outputs required by many people; our citizens; our businesses and our visitors. Sometimes, however, something comes along that is so small and simple that even the average councillor never mind member of the public, can understand it. The £10,000 for the self-congratulatory luvvies festival is a perfect example of this.
Let me recap. We all (including most councillors) learnt that the council had been a sponsor to some sort of champagne based shindig in the autumn when a freedom of information request forced the council to admit that it had put £10,000 into the event. Before that no none cabinet member councillor appears to have known about this. It was not reported anywhere and the decision was not scrutinised by anyone outside the charmed circle of the Elected Mayor’s cronies.
I immediately put down some questions about this event. I wanted a copy of the report; to know which officers and members had suggested that £10k be put in; which members and officers had authorised the expenditure and what outputs and outcomes the council expected to get back for this expenditure at a time when the council claims it cannot make ends meet.
So what have I been told in response to my questions?
1. That the Elected Mayor had authorised the expenditure – this actually was not a surprise as it had to be the case
2. That £10k was put in. This was already disclosed.
3. That the Council got some publicity out of this. True but much of it bad publicity.
What I don’t know is:
1. Which members and/or officers suggested the expenditure
2. Whether a report was prepared about the expenditure and if so by whom?
3. What outputs and outcomes the council expected to get from the expenditure.
In my fourth time of asking I have reiterated my desire as an elected representative to get to the bottom of things but I will NOT hold my breath!
The sad fact is that I have no doubt at all that what has been done is legal. The Mayoral system induces an Emperor and court system. Most councillors have little involvement in the true running of the council. Most are too cowardly to ask questions because of the bully boy tactics which Cllr Jake Morrison so clearly exposed when he left the Labour Party.
So the people of Liverpool are not informed of many of the decisions that they end up paying for. A culture exists within the Council where the letter of the law is observed but not a true spirit of openness, honesty and transparency which should be the hallmark of a truly democratic city and a truly democratic council. Decisions are taken that are immoral at a time of great pressure on the council’s budgets. Yes things are difficult financially but they would be a lot better if the council had a true sense of purpose and direction and leadership that was competent. How can we go and ask the Government for more when we so clearly waste some of the scarce resources that we have.
Lastly, I am saddened by a related matter. I understand that a blogger in Liverpool has now received two legal letters threatening action because of a blog that he has written about this issue. It is not my job or within my experience to comment on legal issues. As I have said before I never have and never well take people to court for either libel or slander although many false things have been said about me over the years including comments in council and on the radio recently.
The likelihood that anyone has suffered in any way because of a local blog about them is remote. Who would stop giving a contract to a company because of something in a local blog? Whose reputation is really damaged because someone says something which is read by a relatively small number of people who probably already have their minds mind up on many of the things that they read?
People who resort to the legal process in matters like this are either trying to stop proper debate and enquiry or they have £note signs in their eyes. The Jonathan Aitkens of this World are not the sort of people that I would like to emulate.
So I have told the threatened blogger 2 things:

1. That I will give evidence in court on his behalf to explain the dreadful systems that we have in place in this city which might, in some circumstances cause people to go over the top.

2. That I will make a contribution to the legal fees of that person.
There are lots of people in this city who hate what is being done in their name but too few are prepared to stand up and be counted. I will not allow anyone who honestly is trying to shine a light in the murky waters of Liverpool City Council to be thrown to the wolves without some attempt to try and help them. At a later stage I might turn to all my readers and ask them for some support in this matter.

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Why Won’t they tell us the truth about the Country’s finances?

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I have waited with interest to see the responses to the autumn statement. All Parties admit that there is still a massive gap between income and expenditure. None admit that their 2010 spending and saving plans have been ruptured by the partial collapse of the Euro. It would appear that what the 3 main parties is telling us is:
Tory: All is well – we can reduce the share of GDP spent on public services to 35% but do everything we need for people because we can become more efficient.
Labour: You haven’t cut enough in the right way but we will deal with the deficit by cutting different things but not increase overall spending.
Lib Dems: We will not cut as much as the Tories and will not borrow as much as Labour
In addition to the 3 main parties we have at least a couple of la-la land approaches.
UKIP: Well whatever policy they have today it will be changed tomorrow but it’s all Europe’s fault anyway.
Greens: Who cares we will spend our way out of the problem!
As you might expect I am closest to the Lib Dem viewpoint which admits you have to do something about both income raising and spending. BUT it by no means tells the whole story and none of the Parties are prepared to tell the whole story because they can only lose votes by doing so before a General Election when people see that the problem is one that needs to be shared by everyone.
So what can and cannot be done?
Well what we cannot do is pretend that the debt is not there. The debt has built up because, quite rightly, none of the Parties were prepared to adopt the ‘cold turkey’ approach applied to places like Greece and Ireland and which is still in different ways gripping places like Spain, Italy and soon France. In these countries the public sector has been ravaged; pensions have been cut by up to 20% in real terms. Debt must be repaid whether you are a person, family, city or country. In many ways the people who have learnt the debt to our Governments are us through our pension funds and insurance companies. The debt isn’t owed to international financiers and bankers, although have taken more than their fair share of it, it is owed to you and I through the long term arrangements that we have tried to make for our futures.
But in terms of what can be done there is more room for manoeuvre than most politicians would have you believe:
Firstly, taxes must be fairer in both personal and commercial taxation. Personally I am pleased that the highest rate of income has been higher for the whole of this Parliament than all but 31 days of the last Labour Government. There have also been cuts in allowances to the wealthy reducing, for example, the amount that can be claimed against tax for pension purposes. I believe that the top rate of income tax should once again rise to 50% above £150,000.
But little seems to have been done to attack the tax advantages of the Uber-rich. Yes some £2 billion extra per year has been raised by closing tax loopholes and in particular tightening up arrangements with tax havens like the Channel Islands and Switzerland. But much more can be done based on assets which they cannot move around like the homes they live in. It was right to put more on stamp duty for the most expensive houses but it does not stop the fact that proportionately rich people pay less for services from the public sector than those lower down the earning chain. A mansion tax is a must and the £2billion would be relatively easy to bring in from most of the people who would fall into it.
The big money, however, will not be saved by increasing taxes on individuals but by doing so on companies. It is an abomination that large companies can decide for themselves where they want to pay tax. Companies like Amazon and Tesco and Microsoft move money around the system by a set of internal pricing policies that remove income from one country by the imposition of service charges and fees and paying them to a country where there is little or no tax liability. This could be dealt with by making an assumption about profit levels compared to turnover. If you think it cannot be done we already do it for self-employed people where the HMRC makes some assumptions about average takings if shopkeepers and taxi drivers seem to seem to be earning too little.
Secondly, we could spend our money much better. At the moment all three of the main parties think the answer is varying degrees of the private/public ownership axis. In fact the axis is more complicated than this. For example most of our utility companies now have foreign owners. They may (or may not) be more efficient but that is of little help to UK PLC if the efficiency simply produces extra profits which are taken out of the Country.
Many of the goods and services that the Government buys would actually be better and more efficiently purchased from small local suppliers. We are already beginning to see this in the electricity supply sector for example with a load of small suppliers feeding into the national systems. They will never replace all the work of the major suppliers but they can eat into their market share. These small companies pay all their taxes in the UK and often give added benefit to local consumers and communities as well.
We should restrict the levels of foreign ownership in many essential services in the way that other countries who claim to be as free market as we are still protect their markets. We should spend far more money with local cooperatives and social enterprises who look after their staff and keep profit local.
BUT let’s not just blame governments of any colour for the problems and think that the solutions lie with them. We can all do something. For example I never buy anything from Amazon. Yet many people I know talk the talk about how dreadful Amazon are but then continue to use them because, “well they are so convenient aren’t they?” Similarly if you go in to a tax reducing coffee shop for a moan about predatory capitalism you shouldn’t. For the vast majority of services that are provided by tax avoiding companies there is a book shop or a coffee shop owned by someone local who pays their full whack of tax and whose profits circulate around our community. Last Saturday was ‘Small business Saturday’ and I made a point of spending something in 8 small locally owned businesses.
This is a blog not a thesis. The point of it is not to say what should be done to deal with the fiscal deficit but that more could be done imaginatively to deal with it than the regressive measures proposed by all Parties that will progressively cut back on services to the poorer 30%+ in our society.
My plea to all Parties and none is to be honest about the scale of the problem facing us and imaginative about ways in which that problem can be dealt with.

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The never ending waste of cash in Labour Liverpool

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Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I see a report coming through of the way that the council spends its money. Or rather how the council spends YOUR money!
Just weeks after we heard from the Echo how the Council had splashed out on £3,500 taps and 65inch TV screens for our plush new HQ we learn that even more money has gone down the drain.
This time its £10,000 towards a ‘luvvies festival’ which seemed designed to give a small coterie of the ‘elite’ a good nosh and prizes to each other. There are allegations of impropriety being involved and that Labour councillors have personally gained from this cash. I will reserve judgement on this until I get answered a series of questions that I have posed to the council. I suspect that everything will have been done legally but sure as hell it hasn’t been done morally. What is the council doing spending money on something with no obvious benefit to the people of Liverpool and which has appeared to only advantage a small piece of the ‘in crowd?’
My questions cover who suggested this money be given and which officers and members authorised it. I have asked to see a copy of the report which should have been prepared to justify this expenditure which should reveal the outputs and outcomes which were expected from this expenditure. I suspect I shall wait in vain. There is no transparent process within Liverpool for spending money of this type – certainly not a process which allows the taxpayer who foots the bill for these things to know what is going on.
But the taps and the £10 are only pocket moneys compared to the squandering of money wholesale by the council. Let’s take the wider matter of the purchase of the Cunard Building. The Mayor claims that it is good value for money and he may be right. I have been trying to fight out what other buildings were considered because it was clear in 2012 that the idea of proceeding with the use of the ground floor as part of a new liner terminal was not feasible. A major development company who looked at the potential realignment of the Municipal Buildings; Millennium House and the Cunard Buildings made this abundantly clear and then were suddenly dropped from the discussions. We do not know if the council just proceeded with the purchase (which we know the Pension Fund was delighted to get rid of after a report some 4 years ago indicated the very high costs of putting the building into good condition) or looked at the other office blocks in the city which were and are still available. It may be good value but was it the best value?
Then what about the £750,000 per year lost on a whim of the Mayor when he took the decision, subsequently put through the system by his Labour apparatchiks, to chop all the bus lanes. He has now reinstated four of them but, incredibly, 6 bus lanes where the consultants paid for by the council have said that there removal will slow both bus and car travel have gone for good.
And what about the use of consultants? Well I cannot tell you how much we have paid for consultants over the past 5 years because all this is clothed in ‘commercial confidentiality’ and is lost somewhere in the system.
The Mayoral system which was brought in without the support of the people of Liverpool costs £500,000+ per year with its salaries, special allowances and office staffing costs.
But if you want to see where the big budgets went look at our voluntary early retirement policy. We lost track of this about a year ago when more than £30,000,000 had been spent on this. Some of this was for genuine retirement. However many people just got a new job, cashed in their chips with the Council and went straight to new jobs in the public and private sectors. Many people took 6 figure sums with them with the highest I have seen reported being £300,000. The fact is that if there had been a coherent strategy much of this money could have been saved. On average about 5% of public sector staff retire or change jobs to another employer every year. That would have meant that more than 20% would have left the council by now without a pay-off.
But that is only one side of not having a strategy. We actually in some cases let the wrong people go! In this financial year alone we have spent more than £1,000,000 on interim management and ‘day-to-day’ consultants. How much over the past 5 years? Again I have no idea because our processes lack transparency.
This is seriously damaging to our city in two ways:
Firstly it is an obvious waste of money that could have been better used in defending and supporting our services.
Secondly it damages our reputation with central government and partners. Why is it that Greater Manchester scoops the pool for cash compared to the Liverpool City Region? Well there are a number of reasons but at least the Government know that in Manchester the money gets spent properly and transparently. How can we argue that the Government gives us too, little money compared to our needs (and I strongly believe that they do) when we blow away so much of the money that we have had?
By now the people of Liverpool should know that when Labour get into power the money flows like water around the city. If they don’t it’s your duty and mine to tell them.

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Suggested principles for Political Life In Liverpool

Last night I attended a meeting with a group of people from outside politics who are interested in producing fundamental changes in the way politics is conducted in Liverpool. They asked me to put some thoughts together about how our politics should be conducted and I was pleased to help because as regular readers of my blog will be aware I think politics here and indeed in the Country as a whole, is at a low ebb.
Here are my draft thoughts about the principles by which we should conduct ourselves and behave towards each other and towards the people of Liverpool and beyond. I really would like to know what you think and to receive your suggestions how we might engage more and more people with a discussion on improving political life and actions in the city.
As ever I can be contacted with comments on this blog; on my face book page or directly by e-mailing me at Richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk

Over to you!
DRAFT   Principles for Public Life in Liverpool
1. Elected members at any level should be polite and courteous to residents and anyone who has an interest in the wellbeing of our city
2. Councillors should be open, honest and transparent about their activities both in their wards and in the city as a whole
3. Councillors should ensure that the council is open and transparent about its dealings and minimises the amount of information it does not disclose.
4. Councillors should be available to meet their residents or people who may have an interest in any portfolio they hold by face to face meetings or by electronic media where appropriate.
5. Councillors and the Mayor should treat each other with respect recognising that all of them have been placed in office by the people of Liverpool.
6. Involving local people, businesses and organisations in decisions which affect localities and the City as a whole before those decisions are made should be the basis of a mature set of relationships in the city.
7. The public, businesses and communities should play a major role in scrutinising decisions of the Council with the scrutiny (select) committees being expanded to include relevant outside bodies.
8. When considering the future of any assets in the City the council should consider whether none-profit making bodies could take them over to meet wider aims of the council and community with sale or take over by the profit making private sector being the last priority.
9. Long standing green spaces should not be sold off or transferred for development unless there are specific circumstances which would prejudice a development if that sale or transfer was not effected. In such cases they would only be allowed if a nearby piece of land of equivalent size and amenity value were made available instead.
10. The Council should regularly review its long term-aims for the long-term future of the city and involve residents, businesses and partners in the development of long-term plans for the city.

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What have I learnt about China?

I have now been here for 4 days and I must admit I know little more about China now than when I came. I am writing this just before I set off for my 30 hour journey home. Who says that foreign travel is exciting?!

I have learned that Scousers get everywhere. The Executive chef in this hotel
Is one of us and his Dad still lives in Walton. I have learned that in this communist country they celebrate Christmas. I sat down to breakfast this morning to the sounds of ‘Deck the halls”, and ‘Silent night”. I mused with some Ozzie mates whether or not they have any idea that some of the tunes they heard were Christian hymns.

I have just been for a walk and am astounded by the pace of development. Within 30 minutes I walked past more than 40 apartment blocks being constructed and about 20 more that were either entirely empty or had just a few people living in the. I passed shopping centres and other facilities built but not occupied. In total that must mean 12,000 apartments and room for 30,000+ people. I wonder how long it will take for them to fill them and create communities here.

The attention given to us by local people was amazing. The hotel staff could not do enough for us. More than 1,000 student volunteers helped us around every corner and every obstacle. But clearly foreigners, particularly those from outside this part of Asia are a rarity. Even at the international airport the vast majority of travellers were Chinese. In Haikou itself people stopped to look at us not because they were being rude but because we looked and acted differently.

I spent some looking at trade links. I think the UK and Liverpool strategies are wrong. Far, far too much emphasis is being place on them investing in us and far, far too little on us investing in them. At some of the presentations that I heard there was almost a begging bowl approach. Please come and invest in us we need you. If the opportunities in the UK such as Liverpool Waters are so good why doesn’t the British banking and commercial system invest in them. I do fear that what we are are seeing is cheap Chinese money being used to acquire European assets which will, in the long-term be highly profitable. Are we seeing the colonialism by capitalism of the People’s Republic of China.

Of course they have real problems with growth as we do. Their growth has slipped from 7.8% per year to 7%. Ours has gone up to about 3%! But in some ways given the low levels of personal GDP in China and the still increasing population they might have more severe problems than we do. The is certainly a massive gap between the middle classes and the workers. Some of the living conditions for workers building the new apartment blocks were revolting. Presumably there are also the uber-rich around but I did not meet them!

Perhaps though the thing I learned here as I learn everywhere I go is that people are basically the same. I met Chinese Mayors striving with the same desire to improve basic living conditions as their counterparts from around the world. I met mums who like every other mum had as their first interest the education and health of their children. Whether you live under communist or democracy of rule the vast majority of people just want to get on with their lives, have a decent place to live, a decent job and a healthy life style.

This planet has all the resources that we need to enable all the population to live in peace and reasonable prosperity. It’s just that we don’t share those resourced properly or look after them sustainably. I am committed to internationalism and to the work I do with United Cities and Local Government because I believe that in my own small way I can make a contribution to these sharing and sustainability goals.

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Letter from China

In case any of you are suffering because I have not been using Twitter or Facebook it’s because it am In China and they are not allowed here. I can however blog!

Before anyone says I am on a freeby, junket or jolly I spent 33 hours getting here, and it will take me 26 hours to get back. I am here in total for 4 days and have already spoken twice using Liverpool as an exemplar of certain types of activity. I am now in a pre meeting for the Executive Bureau of United Cities and Local Government. UCLG this a sort of UN for local government. 173 countries are members of UCLG and I have been the UK representative for 8 years. I have just been asked to take on a role for this organisation which I will explain as soon as I worked out what it is.

I haven’t really seen much of China. So let me tell you what it is like being part of an international gathering. For an internationalist like myself it is great. Different languages, different clothing, different customs could be things that force us apart. Instead it is the difference that unites us! Everyone here is an internationalist otherwise we would not be here. We believe in two things:

1. The importance of local government and local delivery. Of course not everyone has the same belief in local democracy that we do in Western Europe and North America but whatever type of democracy or lack thereof the is no doubt that the more local delivery; the more local the decision making; the better the service will be.

2. We believe in working together by learning from each other and then supporting each other. This is particularly true of those of us from developed areas who wish to help those who, for whatever reason are unable to Ada CE as quickly as possible to our standards of service delivery. This means poorer living conditions, health conditions and education conditions for much of the world.

One of the things I have been spending most time on is the implementation of a new programmes for local government from the EU. For the first time the EU has set up programmes to help local government deliver services. and improve their capacity. Previously help only went to councils through national governments. EU member councils will provide assistance to these colleagues using staff and elected member resources. As I reported back from my visit to the UN they too are considering direct help to councils And are involving UCLG in the key decision making processes in New York. I wish that the UK government was as enlightened. Some of their money gets wasted either because the institutions they put money into lack the capacity to use the money effectively or because there is corruption.

I hope I can persuade the LGA to fully enter into and a support these international programmes. They are fully funded so there will be no charge to local taxpayers. We can not only provide expertise but we can learn from other countries in other situations. Looking seeing and helping can bring returns by way of new thinking and new experiences for our own councils and the citizens we serve.

Just a few thoughts about what I have heard.

Firstly in many ways we do not know how lucky we are to live in a part of the world that is geographically stable. Yesterday I heard terrible but uplifting stories about how countries had suffered earth quakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. Within 1/2 years these countries has been able to stabilise their services BUT it took 10 years to get back to normal. Everywhere they talked of the wasted 10 years. The strength of the human spirit in dealing with such shocking situations is uplifting. “Yes we can” is not a political slogan in the Pacific rim but an actuality. People who have lost their entire families work together and band together to recreate their communities and their lives.

Secondly we should also be pleased that for the past 70 years we have lived in an area of great political stability. I was with Mayors from Lebanon yesterday and tried to put their experiences into context. They have had many people pour over the borders from Syria in the past 3 years. In proportion it would be the same as the people for England absorbing the people of Wales and Ireland. Not only providing them with basic housing big food, health services, education and at a rudimentary level all the things that we need to survive.

They do this with relatively little help from the developed countries although I am proud to say that the UK is often mentioned as a generous donor that keeps its word. That is why we should keep to our commitment to give 0.7% of GDP to aid activity in line with UN targets. When the Disaster Emergencies Committee appeals for help it pours in because of the generosity of British people. It is sad that a relatively small number of politicians appeal to the less generous concerns of a minority and seek to restrict this help.

But it’s not all work and disasters! Last night the European section met for dinner. I sat next to the President and a fellow Liberal who is Mayor of Alemere in Holland. She was saying how she had to learn all the national anthems of major European Countries when she was a girl. Her challenge was to sing them providing we joined in with our own anthem. She managed 8 of them but what impressed me was that she knew the second verse of ours. Most Brits don’t know we sometimes sing 2 verses (there are in fact 3 verses). I have heard many people sing the first verse twice to disguise their lack of knowledge!

Last night we made fun of each other’s. I blamed the Swedes for the viking invasions and the French for 1066! I took the credit for single handedly freeing the World from the German scourge. all this whilst sitting next to a close friend of mine a Mayor from Germany. We could joke because we were comfortable in each other’s company and knew that we were joking about some things that others would take seriously. Inevitably after the national anthems competition we snag a few more things. Some people knew Beatles’ songs better that I did!

Delightfully for me so many of the delegates here complimented me on the way they were looked after when they came to Liverpool in June. They thought our city was marvellous; that our public organisations were efficient and that our citizens were friendly. They are, of course, absolutely right! Already two people have told me that they came back for weekend breaks with their families. others said that they were planning to do so. When people come to our city they are entranced, want to come back and want to seek opportunities to work with us politically and commercially. I was proud to bring so many international visitors to our City and look forward to bringing back even more.

I am now going to listen to a session about water problems. isn’t it great to be able to turn on a tap and the previous fluid of life comes out of it. we have many problems in our country not least of which is the problem of inequality within our country. we are one of the richest countries in the world. If we had the will no-one in our Country would need to be ill educated, ill housed or ill fed. When in see what other countries can achieve with their scarce resources I am spurred on the greater efforts in my own.

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