World Heritage Status Loss – A day of shame for Liverpool

How long will the Council be able to resist low quality development in our City Centre after being stripped of our World Heritage Status? Do they even want to?

Todays loss of World Heritage Status for our City, even though it was expected, is a huge blow to our international prestige and will, without a doubt, affect our tourism and inward investment.

When we received the status in 2004 it helped our work, alongside winning the European Capital of Culture, in changing round the national and global and view of our City. Until these two things happened, we were just Beatles and Football globally and a poor man’s version of Coronation Street within the UK. People shunned our City for visiting, living and investment and the people of Wirral demanded a CH post code and not an L one!

Then people realised that Liverpool was much, much more than that. We were a City of huge culture and an important role in the World’s past present and future. The first decade of this Century was the best in terms of growth and employment that Liverpool had seen for many years. However, much of that has been lost in Joe Anderson’s wasted decade when the World Heritage Status was just a plaque on the wall in the Town Hall.

I have absolutely lost count of the people who have come to Liverpool to our Conference Centre and Arena and who have said to me, “I didn’t know Liverpool was like that, I’m going to bring my family next visits”. Then 3 months later they’d tell me that they had indeed just done that and the family loved it too.

Some will say, ‘but the buildings are still there’. That is true but what we will lose is the desire to preserve them and ensure that all buildings within key areas must be built to the highest possible standards so that in decades time people will still want to visit us.

Already we have a planning application in for a boring and banal development at waterloo Dock which will damage the views of the area in the final approach towards the Pier Head and the Birkenhead Docks for Liners and Ferries. The quality of our buildings old and proposed will be much harder to defend with no Status to lose.

Not, it must be said, that the Council during the last philistine decade, has been any good at high quality development. Look at the fiascos over the Futurist and the possible zipwire in the City Centre

But all is not lost if Liverpool shakes itself down and decides in this new post-Joe Anderson era, to really build up rather than ignore the things that give our Liverpool brand its Unique Selling Point. Liverpool must dare to be different and the way it can do this most effectively is to use its buildings and environment and other cultures to give Liverpool a must-go-to quality.

We must continue to act in strategic and planning terms as if the Status was still in place. We must emphasise and build on our past. We must preserve and find new uses for 981 listed buildings and 50+ conservation areas. This must be done rather than allow the haphazard largely low-grade development which took place over the last decade.

Liverpool will thrive if we make a positive and unique ‘brand’ for our City which recognises and builds on its past rather than create a city which has no USP to compete with all the other cities seeking global attention.

Liverpool needs to send a message from today on that the Philistine Decade has drawn to a close and thata new era of proud-Scousers in a proud City will ensue.

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Labour Liverpool report finds local bullying, misogyny, toxic culture

When the City Council meets tomorrow to endorse a report containing Liverpool’s improvement proposals they must have at the back of their mind the need to improve Liverpool’s Labour Party as well

I have just seen a report on LabourList about the report which is being presented to Labour’s National Executive. It makes absolutely clear why the City Council has fallen into such terrible straits with its controlling group riven by misogyny, a toxic culture and anti-Semitism. It shows that rather than concentrating on delivering the vital services that the people of Liverpool need and deserve the Party looked inward to concentrate on factionalism and petty jealousies.

This comes as no surprise to anyone but now the report and its leaking to LabourList has left the local Party nowhere to hide. It comes at an opportune moment as tomorrow the Council considers its improvement plan to take us out of the Joe Anderson wasted decade. At Council tomorrow we will be confirming our initial improvement plan and must take the opportunity to look at the policies which have made the Council look inward rather than placing our City properly regionally, nationally and internationally.

In the short-term, however, this is likely to lead to yet more bloodletting inside Labour locally at a time when the City needs all its Councillors from all Parties concentrating on the way forward to respond to the Caller report and create vital new policies for the Council in a post- Brexit, Post Covid era.

In effect the report suggests nothing less than a wholesale clear out of councillors and officials now connected with the discredited Anderson lost Decade.

We can only hope that Labour’s National Executive today implement the report’s recommendations and also that the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service move as swiftly as possible to bring any potential legal actions in to the open as soon as possible. In some ways necessary actions cannot be taken inside the Council until we know what the Police intend to do and to whom. There is currently a lingering suspicion that there will be more arrests of more people and that charges will follow behand later in the year.

It may sound a long time ahead but Liverpool Lib Dems are looking forward to the May 2023 elections. We will build on our best elections this May in over a decade to provide a real challenge to a faded, jaded Labour Party”.

Today’s LabourList report in full

The review conducted by Labour into its own functioning in Liverpool after government intervention in the city council has found evidence of “bullying”, “misogyny” and a “toxic culture” locally, LabourList can exclusively reveal.

The hard-hitting report, seen by LabourList in full ahead of being presented to Labour’s ruling national executive committee on Tuesday, reveals that local members have found “misogyny and lack of tolerance endemic”.

Based on the 77 written submissions received by the panel and its 53 interviews talking to 60 individuals, the investigation concludes: “Nothing less than a full reset of the Labour Party in Liverpool is needed.”

It recommends that Labour nationally takes over candidate selection processes in Liverpool until June 2026, and that it immediately fast-tracks outstanding complaints in the Liverpool City region, completing them within six months.

The panel led by former government minister David Hanson says it received evidence identifying a “toxic culture” within the Labour group on the council and “dysfunctional governance running throughout the organisation”.

Looking at local party meetings, the internal investigation was “told of a toxic atmosphere in some meetings, not welcoming to members, where often members especially women were targeted for bullying or abuse”.

The panel was “presented with evidence of a history of antisemitism that already has led to expulsions and suspensions” and has recommended compulsory antisemitism training for all elected representatives, local party and branch officers.

It has further advised the party that this should “become a requirement for all seeking elected public office or office in the party in the future” and that Labour must make the necessary rule changes at party conference.

Noting reports of “poor performance”, “bullying, factionalism, misogyny and dysfunction”, “lack of organisation” and “unhealthy petty rivalries”, the document concludes that the panel recommendations “need acting on now”.

It also suggests that Labour reconstitute the constituencies in Liverpool and that all parliamentary candidates in future sign a pledge agreeing a date they will resign their council seat – including current councillor and MP Ian Byrne.

Labour launched its own Liverpool review after the Max Caller report into alleged wrongdoing at Liverpool City Council was published and commissioners were appointed by the government to oversee parts of the local authority.

Starting its work in April this year, the review was led by former Labour MP David Hanson, who was assisted by former Leeds Council leader Judith Blake and opposition chief whip Roy Kennedy, both Labour peers.

Sienna Miller, Editor LabourList

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One law for the Chavs and another for the Not-Chavs!

Buffoon Boris and his side-kicks, Javid and Patel clearly think there is one rule for them and one for the rest of us. The rest of us need to unite to say that we disagree. In the short-term we can do that by remembering hands, face, space.

This Tory Government is not known for its moral integrity. Huge amounts of cash have been given on mate’s rates contracts to people on a VIP procurement list which seems to consist solely of Tory donors. A Health Secretary who reminded us of hands, face and space while practicing hands, face and back to my place. A Tory Communities Secretary who, rightly as it happens, excoriates Liverpool under Joe Anderson for possible planning malfeasance, but had to apologise for ignoring civil service advice and granted planning permission to yet another Tory donor to save them £38 million in tax.

But the new Tory Health Secretary Sajid Javid and his odious boss Buffoon Johnson have set a world record in immorality after revealing that despite being pinged, they intend to carry on working. They are doing so because they have apparently been randomly selected to participate in a new daily testing regime. As the Actor, Ricky Tomlinson, might sagely remark, “my arse!”

Whether you believe in the testing and isolating regime or think it is a ludicrous reaction to what may be the latter stages of the pandemic we should all unite behind one clear theme. There should be one law and one set of rules which bind all of us mot one rule us and one for our masters. This is not democracy; it is feudalism in action.

Democracy works through the principle of community consent. We the people vote in a fair and free election for the people we want and the winner is allowed to govern. Of course, this is constrained in our system by the fact that we have an unfair electoral system that distorts that vote but leaving that aside we have had a system that worked most of the time for most of the people.

The other side of the bargain is that the Government governs for all of us and does, or at least tries to do, what it told us it would when seeking election. One country, one set or rules or laws, one set of obligations is at the heart of our ‘unwritten’ constitution and at the heart of Magna Carta.

My first concerns are that this will have severe health consequences for England. Hundreds of thousands of people will now step outside the ‘test, trace and isolate’ regime because that’s what the PM and Health Secretary. Many will use that as an excuse for not doing something that they think they should not have to do. Yet more will make the assumption that what they are being asked to do is unnecessary.

Yet the very fact that Javid has been double jabbed and yet still has Covid should cause us all to stop and think. No inoculation is perfect. The jabs being used now are 90% effective that means that 10% can still get it and therefore transmit it. They will get manageable symptoms and will, in most cases avoid hospitalisation and death but what about the people they have passed the infection on to?

What about the fact that, as I argued in my last blog, they can still face life changing things happening to their bodies in the short, medium and long-terms which they may be completely unaware of now.

There is already evidence beginning to come through in Scotland that the football events allowed have caused a spike in infections and similar evidence is beginning to emerge from all the Wembley events and crowd scenes. What Johnson and Javid will cause to happen is that there will be further unnecessary infections just because people look at them and say, “I will do as they do”.

This episode, though, is just another example of a two-level state in which a Government led by Bullingdon Club members and their ilk, believe that there is a right to rule for them and a right to be a serf for us. There are two current examples of this, both of which come from the loathsome Priti Patel and the Home Office

Firstly, there are the proposals to massively limit the right to protest. Complaining publicly about the Government is a basic right in a democracy. Of course, protestors must do so civilly and peacefully and say and do things in a none aggressive way. Of course, there may be further restrictions for health and safety reasons especially during the pandemic. Those conditions apart it is our right to be heard even if we cannot make our masters listen!

Secondly, there are proposals to make it harder both to vote and to register to vote. The incidence of fraud in UK elections is mind-blowingly small. Most of it occurs with postal voting abuse or with the collecting of signatures on nomination papers. Each year that a handful of legal actions amongst the tens of thousands of candidates and the millions of voters.

Legislation will mean that we need photo identity to vote. I have a passport and a driving licence but lots of young people have neither. Lots of people older than me had both but have not renewed them. The Tories are doing this because they believe it will electorally advantage them.   Actually, I think they are wrong but whether right or wrong we should be trying to get more people to vote and not limit the voters to ‘our’ people.

Whilst I am not a believer in a ‘Progressive Alliance’ there are issues on which none Tories should ally. Protecting the nation’s health and defending our hard-earned civil liberties are definitely two of them.

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They think it’s all over – it isn’t!

The Government might be acting irresponsibly but we must not do the same. Hands, face, space, masks and social distancing must constinue to be part of our lives for the foreseeable future

Over the past few weeks in connection with the Euro 2020 campaign I’ve heard a continued re-use of the phrase from the World Cup Final in 1966, “they think it’s all over – It is now!” The problem is that lots of people think that the pandemic is all over. My response to that is very clear – it isn’t.

On a single person basis look at the few Tweets that the Political Editor of the Liverpool Echo, Liam Thorp, has been able to send. He had been part inoculated but caught Covid-19 before he could get the second jab. He has really suffered excruciating pain and suffering and this is a reasonably fit, reasonably young man. (you can get your own back at me when you are better!!)

You may recall that he recounted in appalling detail his visit to an ICU ward last year. I hope he will be able to recount for us all in the Echo his personal experiences of just how bad a Corona attack is.

If you think that either Liam or I am exaggerating this you can do two things. Firstly, you can note that the bravado of ‘Freedom Day’ announcements from Buffoon Johnson, has been massively toned down. It is clear that the move to an early ending of aspects of lockdown has been driven by politics and not science.

As far as the incompetent Tory Government is concerned Pandora’s Box of goodies has been opened and it would almost appear that the four horsemen of the apocalypse emerged instead. The Tories now know that they have blundered into letting go too far and too soon and cannot work out how to backtrack.

Secondly, you can see below some of the statistics from the NHS and the ONS about long-Covid and emerging evidence about permanent Covid damage.

Although the rate of hospitalisation and deaths from Covid has been weakened it has not been broken. It’s not only deaths, however, that we should consider. We have serious problems with those who catch it and survive. Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering from a variety of conditions that are known collectively as ‘long-Covid’.

Yesterday I listened to a presentation from Public Health England about long-Covid which frankly was quite terrifying. Whilst lots of people think that we are through the worst of the pandemic others will be suffering from the effects of it for many months and others will suffer it for the rest of their lives.

The PHE presentation revealed that:

  • An Office for National Statistics Survey found that 385,000 had long-Covid symptoms for at least 12 months. This will continue to rise as it obviously follows 12 months behind new infection rates.
  • 66% of those reporting long-Covid (634,000) said symptoms had adversely affected day-to-day activities.
  • 71% said it was affecting personal relationships
  • Long term symptoms were the same for hospitalised cases and less severe cases
  • People of all ages are affected.

Meanwhile another study from the Wellcome Foundation looked at slightly different aspects of Long-Covid with a tight set of questions to a smaller number of people. The study found that

  • The probability of symptoms lasting beyond 35 weeks (eight months) was 91.8 per cent.
  • Among all of the respondents, 3,608 (96 per cent) reported symptoms lasting beyond 90 days, while 2,454 (65 per cent) experienced symptoms for at least 180 days.
  • Among those who were experiencing symptoms for at least six months, the most common included fatigue (80 per cent), post-exertional malaise (73 per cent), cognitive dysfunction (58 per cent), sensorimotor symptoms (56 per cent), headaches (54 per cent), and memory issues (51 per cent).
  • During their illness, participants reported an average of 55.9 symptoms (out of the longer list of 203 measured in the study), across an average of 9.1 organ systems.
  • Around nine in 10 (89 per cent) of the participants said their symptoms returned, with exercise, physical or mental activity, and stress listed as the main triggers.
  • Nearly half (45 per cent) said they had to reduce the number of hours they worked as a result of the illness and more than one in five (22 per cent) were not working at all at the time of the survey.

If you think that this is bad enough then it gets worse. There is clearly damage being done to at least 5 organs on a permanent basis for many people. I am being imprecise because not enough work has been done on this yet to give the full figures. However, there is clear evidence that healthy lungs can be permanently scarred with similar effects on the heart, liver and kidneys.

I don’t want to appear to be a shroud waver but people will die earlier at some time in the future than they otherwise would have done because of Covid-19. Already more are being pushed into social care or are needing more support from their families than would normally be the case.

So, IF THE GOVERNMENT IS REFUSUSING TO ACT RESPONSIBLY WHAT CAN WE DO? The answer is that we must act even more responsibly both as evidence and business owners.

Already shop keepers on Allerton Road are looking at a joint response to July 19th changes. Many will still choose to limit the number in their premises and their own rules about scial distancing and the way in which food and drink is ordered, paid for and served.

All good employers are still extending, where possible, the ability for people to work from home and therefore reduce the amount of crowding in offices and other potential locations. They have reviewed room and factory layouts to reduce contacts and have look at ventilation to reduce risk.

As individuals. Any one who has not been jabbed really must go and get done. That’s he best way to look after yourself and those around you.

The motto, ‘hands, face, and space’, must guide what we do wherever possible. Don’t go into crowded spaces unless you need to. Wear a mask because it is not a sign of a fascist identity theft but a sign that you care about the community around you.

It would be better if the Government acted but if they are being less responsible then we must be more responsible.

We may have to learn to live with Covid-19 but that’s better than dying because of it! Too many more people will die or be damaged in the medium to long term because of so-called ‘Freedom Day’ Together, we must try to mitigate the crass politicised behaviour of the Tory Government.

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Why I’m marching virtually for Liverpool Pride

For a second year we cannot march in the Liverpool Pride event but we can work to uphold the spirit of Pride in all that we do.

One of the ‘political’ highlights of summer for the last many years is the annual Pride march through town. Even when it has poured down it has failed to dampen the spirits and enthusiasm of the participants.

Part of the event is a delightful pageant and carnival. On the one hand the Police marching through the City in disciplined ranks led by the Chief Constable on the other a variety of people in extravagant fancy dress. The flags get waved, the drums get beaten and the booze gets drunk!

The other part is a serious one. In 2019, the last occasion on which we were able to march, there was a great speech about equality from Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool. This served to remind us that whilst it is a fun day it has a serious purpose. All over the world people get killed, tortured and humiliated because of their sexuality.

It seems to me that the last few years in this Country we have seen a small but noticeable increase in homophobia although much of this appears to have aimed at the trans community.

What is noticeable is that the proponents of the hateful behaviour are often the same as those who don’t like blacks, Muslims or any other minority. The racist nature of much of the Brexit debate has spilled over into a wider cesspit of discontent from a small but vocal minority in our population.

As a liberal who works as a Liberal Democrat, I believe that people should be able to practice their faith and their sexuality in any way that they want providing it does not create and adverse impact on others.

As a white heterosexual with no religious faith I want to live my life to the full. I can see absolutely no reason why any other group should be treated differently. I have friends of all faiths, colours and sexual persuasions. None of them have tried to impose their beliefs on me. They accept me for what I am as I accept them for what they are.

If we want to build a strong UK we need to build on the talents and skills of all our people. For too long our Country has been led by…. Well people like me. White middle-class people men who have assumed a right to rule because of their innate superiority. In my defence I would point that if I thought I had a right to real I wouldn’t be in the Lib Dems!!

We can see from the Eton led hoorah henrys just how dangerous this approach has been. They have led us into Brexit; into ill thought out policies about the virus; into antiquated ideas about education. They have created a society which separates the chavs from the chav nots.

This means that the intellectual capacity of minorities has not been used to the full. In fact, in the case of women they are not a minority but a majority. This means that as a society we do the wrong things and as an economy we are falling behind more advanced nations.

I think we need to move to a less competitive society. A society in which the key thoughts relate to family and community and to ensuring that the wealth that a community creates is mor evenly distributed. I think that this is a view which is held much more by women than by men. Perhaps this is the reason that they either cannot or do not wish to climb the greasy pole to the top of large organisation in the same numbers as aspiring men.

Again, Bishop Bayes is seeking to set a lead by championing within the C of E a new concept of marriage being about people who love each other and commit to each other regardless of gender.

That has, I suspect, led him into hot water with some in his Church but he is setting a strong moral lead. We must all do likewise. Too often we have stood aside when bad behaviour, thoughts and words are expressed because we have been afraid of the personal outcomes. If those who seek to restrain the dignity and talents of others are becoming more vocal then so must we and provide an effective challenge to the hate which is increasingly being spewed across our cities by a minority of louts.

About 30% of the Councils in England now have a female Chief Executive and a similar number have female chief finance officers. I can say that with reasonable certainty but I cannot tell you how many of those men and women who fill these crucial posts are gay.

In some ways that is good because they have got to their position on merit which is how every position should be filled. On the other it means I don’t know how many have not got to the top because there are no clear role models for them to emulate.

As a Lib Dem I will be proud to march again when we are able. To take part in the fun and frolics of Pride and, yes, have a couple of drinks as well. But I’ll never, ever forget the key words of our Constitution to which we commit when we join the Party,

“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full”.

Noble aims which you could subscribe to by joining us at www.liverlibdems.org.uk.

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Liverpool Council needs to clean up its act

The decisions taken by the councillors and its officers must be based on a higher moral level than we have seen for the past decade. That’s why we are moving a motion to review the way we do business at the next Council meeting.

We are all now aware of the financial and procedural deficits of Liverpool Council over the past 10 years. We have had a regeneration department that has gone rogue leading to huge losses to the tax payers of Liverpool, reputational damage to the City and who knows what else the continuing police investigations might find?

At the core of the problems appears to have been a disdain ensuring that the Council engaged in its business in a proper and decent way. A lack of acceptance that in the way it did its business there needed to be a moral core to our work as the elected representatives of the people.

In the private sector all the talk nowadays is about ESG. Environment, Social and Governance concerns. I have long argued that ESG was, or at least should be, an unnecessary concept in the elected bodies of the land. Regrettably, over the past couple of years we have seen corruption at every level. I won’t reprise again the specific problems of Liverpool. In Westminster and Whitehall this has been amplified further.

£billions worth of contracts have been given to people who have been friends of Tory Ministers or donors to the Tory Party. £500,000 for poling by friends of Dom. £33billon to Serco to conduct an appalling run and led Track and Trace programme. In Liverpool and London dodgy contracts were written to obtain PPE which was useless.

My colleagues and I must leave the national problems to others but we do want to do more to correct the attitudes which have been at the core of the problems in Liverpool. At the Council meeting on 21st July we will be moving a motion which will begin to address the three core areas. Areas which we want to put at the heart of our thought processes in everything than we do; in everything that we spend; in every partnership that we forge; and in every investment that we make.

If you look at the agendas of countless committees and indeed of full council, you would think that such as motion as we are moving was unnecessary. We have poured out countless resolutions, written scores of letters to Ministers, made pious speeches but we failed to live up tour own words.

You can see in the full motion which I show below we are not arrogant enough to think that a mere resolution will change things or even yet more words for well-meaning politicians.

We are asking the powerful Audit Committee to consider these moral issues alongside all the procedural and financial reviews they need to make. But at the heart of the things we do we must put the opinions of the people that we represent. That’s why we are asking the Audit Committee to enter into a two-way consultation process within the City’s both residential and business communities.

On the environment we want to ask questions about what we should invest in. For example, should we as a Council that, in theory, has accepted the climate change challenge and the urgency required to deal with it, invest in a sports car company?

On social grounds should we be allowing a wholly owned company of the Council to hold an arms fair in the City?

On governance grounds should we be changing our methods and practices to bring the Council’s decision-making processes closer to the people and make them far more transparent?

Of course, we Lib Dems have our own answers to these questions. You can probably guess what they are. The only reason that we are reticent about bringing those ideas is because we do not want to pre-empt proper public discussion. This is not our City, Councillors act as custodians of the Council on behalf of the people. We genuinely want to have a major discussion about this issue which should lie at the heart of the way we do things.

Tomorrow our Chief Whip, Cllr Kelly, will be at a pre-Council meeting with Labour’s Chief Whip. We hope to join our motion with one from Labour and hope that it will be a meaningful and committed all-Party approach to taking forward the moral standing of the Council on to a higher level.

As always, we would be delighted to hear from you what you think. That’s why our motion is given in full below. You can email me at Richard.kemp@liverlibdems.org.uk or any of our councillors at a similar address.

Creation of an ethical Environment, Social and Governance framework for the Council

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Council notes with concern a continued failure of the Council to prohibit relationships and partnerships which the majority of the people of Liverpool and their councillors will find offensive such as the Arms Fair taking place at the Liverpool Arena and a £1,000,000 investment in a sports car company.

It believes that as part of its review of governance, regeneration, procurement policies and council owned companies it should urgently review its ethical framework to restrict the ability of the council to engage in any way in activities of any sort which do not meet ethical criteria which would be inimical to the people of Liverpool.

It requests the Audit Committee to consider this matter and to consult with the people of Liverpool on areas where the Council’s external relationships should be restricted.

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The ghost of Joe Anderson still costs the Council dear

Joe Anderson’s shenanigans are still costing the Council and thefore taxpapeyers, dear. This will continue for years.

The cost of the legacy of Joe Anderson is still mounting up with a report to next week’s Cabinet indicating costs to improve the Council of £2.5 million over the next 3 years. The costs include the costs of the Commissioners and a range of training and support programmes that need to be delivered to ensure that both staff and councillors are both knowledgeable about and competent to manage the challenges of pulling Liverpool Council back from the brink.

This figure does not include the cost of the Caller led Best Value Inspection team which came to about £150,000.

I am not quibbling about this figure. The Council is in a mess and we always knew that we would need support to put it right. It can be seen in the context of the £100,000,000+ that has been lost in various ways. We have a gross budget of about £1 billion a year so this a relatively small amount. But it is money that has had to be moved from the delivery of front-line services when the Council has many problems with the environment, adult social care, roads and education.

Joe Anderson always claimed that Liverpool had been singled out for cuts from the Government. It is absolutely true that Councils have been underfunded since 2010 but Liverpool was dealt with in the same way as other councils. The same formulae were applied and all Councils took a hit.

What made us different was the spectacular incompetence or worse, that Liverpool suffered. The £100,000,000 largely but not exclusively came from the regeneration dept. We failed to collect commercial rents; we failed to get planning gain money; we gave assets away at ‘mates rates’ to selected chums of Labour, many of whom contributed to Labour campaign funds; we allowed incompetent practices which meant that we failed to provide the efficiency that Liverpool council tax payers deserved.

We employed some people at less than reasonable competence levels at the highest levels of and then, in two cases, leased high end cars at a cost to taxpayers of £90,000 to encourage people to come to Liverpool and cause havoc.

I am sure that there are more horrors to come out. Our staff are getting into the systems which have gone so terribly wrong. They are being supported in this by the new Mayor and Cabinet and, through the proper political process, the Lib Dems are supporting them. We are beginning to introduce proper scrutiny into the process in part with the creation of a powerful and independent Audit Committee chaired by my Lib Dem colleague, Cllr Kris Brown.

Some of the costs will be more long-term. We have no idea about the cash required from the public sector to remediate the failed developments in and around the City Centre. Our education service has taken a huge hit. In 2010, Liverpool was the best performing education authority in the Core Cities and above average in comparison to every English authority. Since then standards have declined an we are now a poor performer on almost every indicator.

I am amazed that Joe Anderson is still proceeding with a judicial review of the Council’s decision not to pay for his legal costs. He has lost one case against the Police which will have cost someone, I would guess the long-suffering members of UNITE, £8,000. This would have been much more if the Judge had not thrown it out on the first hearing as being without merit.

He is still continuing with two attempted judicial reviews.

The first is against the Government because he claims, in the face of all the evidence, that the Caller report is all wrong and has damaged the Council and his own reputation!

The second is against the Council on the grounds that we should be paying his legal costs for the other two legal actions! The City Solicitor and Chief Executive have stood firm on this with the support of all reasonable councillors. It is true that Councillors have a legal indemnity to defend actions properly taken if legal challenges are made to them personally. The Caller Report has laid bare the Council’s problems that were caused by the attitudes and behaviour of the Mayor and some of those that he brought in. We should not have to pay twice for that set of unacceptable actions.

Joe Anderson has cost every homeowner in Liverpool about £1,000. It’s time he said, ‘enough is enough’ and got on with the work of defending his own actions using his own money. 

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Bungling Boris goes too far too soon

I had a great time at the weekend. It was the first time all (but one) of my family had been together for 2 years. But we met outside and will continue to follow sensible health measures to prevent illness to the family and others with whom we interact

Everyone wants restrictions caused by Covid to end as soon as possible but most of us realise that this can only be done safely by doing it in the right way at the right time. I have no doubt that, by ignoring scientific and medical advice, bungling Boris is doing it too quickly and in the wrong way.

I have asked for a meeting of the Liverpool Council Group Leaders already called for this Friday to consider the following issues:

1.    What is happening nationally to try and slow down the proposed changes until the virus infection rate is at a considerably reduced level than it is today and how we might join in these national efforts.

We know that national professional bodies such as the BMA and the Association of Directors of Public Health are expressing concern about the effects to health and therefore the NHS following 19th July. Already there are 4 million people awaiting surgery and waiting lists have soared. Pressure is once again being put on the NHS by increased Covid infection.

I am pleased that the Queen has recognised the work of the NHS staff with the award of the George Cross. However, our staff are grossly overworked and would probably have preferred a decent pay rise and some time off to repair themselves.

2.    What pressure we might put on the Government to provide greater clarity on the advice they are giving about continued social distancing, masking etc.

Different Ministers are saying different things. This lack of clarity will ensure that many members of the public will not take the advice that is needed but will instead take the advice that they hear.

3.    What efforts we can make locally through our public health, licensing, schools and other teams to continue to ensure that all places where people meet will continue to take sensible precautions to limit the spread of infections.

We cannot stop the stupidity of Ministers but we can seek to reduce the impact of that stupidity in our City. We need to use all the interactions that the Council has with the people who run the places where people of all ages meet to maximise the efforts that responsible business managers will continue to make to keep their premises safe.

We can take the lead by ensuring that all our buildings whether used only not only by our staff but also by the public such as St Georges Hall continue to practice face masks, social distancing and the use of hand sanitisers. We can refuse entry to our buildings if people are not willing to comply. This will send a strong message to other building owners and the public.

4.    What messaging we can take to the Liverpool community that what Johnson allows us to do is not necessarily what we should be doing?

Many people will want to continue to ‘play safe’ and that includes me. I will continue to wear a mask in public buildings and on public transport and socially distance and use hand sanitisers. I will continue to test on a minimum of a weekly basis but more often if I have been ‘out and about’.  I will continue to restrict access to my home. I will continue to look inside places to see if it is, in my opinion, too crowded.

I think many others will do that. But many more will want to but feel that they will be risking adverse comment if they do. The better the messaging about continued care the more likely that people will feel empowered to keep themselves and others safe.

Some reading this will conclude that I am being over protective, over the top and trying to keep restrictions in place for too long. They are entitled to that opinion.

I believe that as a lay person with no medical or scientific qualifications I should listen to those that have. I know that there are mental health issues for some people affected by lockdown and restrictions. I know that we need to find a balance between employment and health. I know that, as with influenza, there is an element in which we must learn to live with Covid.

However, I firmly believe that the total lifting of the restrictions is being done for the wrong reasons – political ones; and at the wrong speed – ignoring professional and scientific advice. I will continue to keep myself, my family and my community as safe as possible and hope that you will too.

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No Progressive Alliance required – the voters sort it out!

The recent parliamntary by-elections have shown we are back in the position of having three main Parties in England (and the UK) and we Lib Dems have established a firm base for ourselves as a key anti right wing Party

So, three by-elections have been held in England and the three main English Parties have come out with 1 each. It’s a bit more complicated than that of course. The Lib Dem one was a gain, the Tories gained one with a large majority but lost one with a large majority. Labour squeaked in to hold one that the Tories were expecting to win but lost one. Indeed, they probably would have won two if it hadn’t been for the behaviour and outing of Matt Hancock.

We are now once again hear siren voices call for a ‘progressive alliance’ to defeat the Tories. A closer look at the results in the three by-elections, however, suggests that this is not only unnecessary but absolutely undesirable.

In Amersham and Chesham, the Lib Dems were clearly the top dog opposition party. Everyone knew that. The Lib Dem candidate was very competent and could sense the issues where our Lib Dem beliefs coincided with the feelings of the electorate. Labour voters knew that and decided that THEY wanted to get the Tory out by voting for a Party that was clearly their normal second choice.

In the other two by-elections we started in a poor third place and many Lib Dem voters decided that THEY would prefer to help Labour defend the seat from the Tories. However, it gets more complicated than that. It is clear that in Batley & Spen most of those that voted Lib Dem would not have voted Labour but would probably have voted Tory which would have given them the seat.

The similarity between these elections is clear. Local people knew local circumstances and made their own decision about who to support. This was not only the case in deciding whether or not to support the obvious second place but also looked at local judgements about who was saying what mattered to them int eh circumstances of that constituency. Our candidates in both the other two by-elections were good and very presentable. However, all they could do is present our Party as best they could in adverse circumstances.

So, there are two key lessons that can be gained from these elections for progressive alliance supporters;

Firstly, that the Parties cannot deliver their vote to another Party. People support a party for a number of reasons and come to the party from a number of directions. We can see large numbers of former Labour supporters who now happily vote Tory. They delivered their own vote where they wanted it to go. Nothing that a Party Leader would have said would have moved the vote to another camp. Most of those small numbers of people would simply not have voted.

Secondly, that there is no need for an alliance because people can come to their own conclusion as to the best way to defeat the Tories IF that is their major desire.

This is nothing new. It has happened for a long time. When I first went canvassing in the 1960s I got so depressed by the number of people who told me that they would vote for us if they thought that we could win. This is a chorus I have heard for the whole of my political life. Consistently, when asked the question, “would you vote Lib Dem if you thought they could win?” the number is approximately 3 times the number of those who say that they will vote for us.

Sometimes this works to the advantage of a variety of Parties. In Liverpool where the Tories have been insignificant since 1973 and last got a  councillor elected 27 years ago Tory voters in certain parts of the City look askance at Labour locally and loyally turn out to vote Lib Dem as the only realistic  alternative.

Perhaps the other thing of significance is the fact, that with the exception of Galloway, the right-wing fringe have become a rump. Yes, I know that Johnson’s Tories have become the Brexit Party but most of them are not as toxic as the likes of Farage, Tice and Widdecombe.

Galloway is another matter. He is one of the vilest, egocentric and bigoted of any politician of his generation. He just doesn’t care what s**t he stirs up in the area on which he descends but never stays. He moves on with his small and foul entourage leaving responsible politicians like Kim Leadbetter and Baroness Kath Pinnock to pick up the pieces.

As things move on, am I brave enough to try and say what happens next? Probably not!! I can discern trends however. The number of one nation Tories see a Party in power which does not represent them and share their values and will increasingly desert them. Labour will continue to struggle internally. As I did predict 7 years ago Momentum, like Militant before them, has lost most of its influence and control of local Labour Parties. Labour is not a happy place with much of its behaviour still being Red on Red.

As for the Lib Dems I see a Party transformed since the depths of 2015. We’ve added 750 councillors and about 30 councils where we lead or control to our tally. Our membership continues to be about 100,000 but with a much higher number of people who have been blooded in battle and know how to run things from elections to councils. Our Parliamentary Party is small but perfectly formed pulling well above their weight in the media and parliamentary terms.

I’m optimistic about the future potential of our Party. All we need to do is clarify what we want to achieve politically and I believe that the torch we old folk can pass on to the next generations is shining bright indeed.

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Why I support our armed forces

The Duke of Lancaster’s Regimntal Band prepare to play in St Nicholas Church for an Armed Forces Day celebration

In all the swirl of tittle-tattle, mystery and intrigue that was generated yesterday by Hunt’s marital infidelity and possible illegal actions as Health Secretary you might be forgiven for having missed the fact that it was Armed Forces Day yesterday. I was proud to represent the Opposition Parties at a service at the Liverpool Parish Church of St Nicholas.

Many people sneer at the very idea that we have armed forces. I have never had that reaction. I am not a pacifist. I believe that the force of evil sometimes needs to be fought with the weapons that they would use on us. We must always do what we can to avoid bloodshed, especially of civilians, but sometimes it just has to happen.

Nor should it only happen in defence of this Country within or around its borders. We lost 300+ military lives in the Afghanistan battles. The fact that we and others were there has enabled the Afghan Government to prepare itself to fight the Taliban. That is a fight that we must continue to endorse. As citizens of the World we should oppose those who believe in the enslavement of women and the use of torture and terror. As citizens of the UK we must know that if the Taliban take control of one Country, they will be able to use it as a base to cause mayhem in other Countries including our own.

Its not just Afghanistan. The UK, at any one time, has teams in more than a dozen countries helping nations like Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria fight Boko Haram and similar groups. I don’t always approve of where they are deployed. We support too many despots in the Middle East to my liking. Mostly, however they are in the right place and it’s not their fault of they are in the wrong place.

Whenever I go to military events, I am always conscious of the fact that everyone there in uniform has signed up, if necessary, to defend the rest of us by giving up their lives. They do this to preserve not only our lives but our way of life.

But this year, above all, we should be cognisant of the other great undertakings of our highly disciplined and trained teams. There exists an agreement called the Military Assistance to Civil Authorities in which the military can step in to assist with human or man-made disasters.

They are trained in logistics. How to get the right equipment to the right part of the battlefield, or port or harbour to enable our forces to fight. For the last 15 months their enemy was our enemy, the Covid-19 virus. Within days they started the delivery of what has turned out to be 60 billion pieces of PPE. Within days they set up Nightingale hospitals. Testing centres and vaccination points.

The fact they the army deployed to Liverpool last Autumn meant that Liverpool was the only part of the North West to move to tier 2 from tier 3.

They have reminded us that we have armed forces. They are usually, ‘out of sight and out of mind’ except when the coffins stopped coming home through Royal Wooton Basset. But they are there now inside our Country, constantly training and deployed round the world to train up the forces of governments’ fighting terrorism and helping poor countries cope with a range of disasters.

I don’t approve of some things that the forces do. My disagreement with them is not a military one but a political one. Too often our military spending has been totally out of control with the forces unable to procure their equipment in a cost effective and timely way. Too often we spend the money available on swagger ideas. Do we really need two aircraft carriers when that expenditure has taken money away from land and air forces which are much more practical in modern times?

But such decisions are not made by squaddies or matelots or their commanders. They are made by politicians who have their own agendas and who love to preen in front of someone saluting them.

I ended the day, as I always do, being thankful that I was never called up for military service. I am ever thankful of the fact that others are prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice on my behalf. My job is to support them whenever I can, especially when so many of them fall on hard times when they leave active service. Leaving the services is like leaving a family. Many of our homeless and jobless are people who we have failed to support on their re-entry to civilian life.

I am proud of the fact that our forces are highly professional and disciplined. I will always give them whatever support as a can both as an elected representative and as a citizen. I hope this is a position that you too  can share.

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