Can you get home safely from a night on the lash in Liverpool?

taxi

If you want to get home safely after a night out then flag down a ‘Black Hack’ or ring up or use an app from a local company. Just getting into any old vehicle on the street is dangerous

Last night I did something I haven’t done for many a year. I went out on the town in Liverpool. I wasn’t on the pull (honestly Erica) and I wasn’t on the lash with my mates (honestly Erica). I was out with the Taxi Alliance in Liverpool after they came to see me to describe the problems they face as a legitimate business in Liverpool. The Taxi Alliance is the largest of the representative bodies for Taxi drivers in Liverpool but is having major problems getting meetings with the relevant staff.

I was appalled at what I saw. Streets that I see throughout the day as lovely streets were chocker with people many of them highly intoxicated and much the worse for it. But that is not what I was looking at. I was looking at the problems of safe movement of people into town but more specifically getting out of town safely at night.

It seemed to me that Liverpool City Council has basically abandoned its duties for safe travel. In the space of two hours between 11 and 1 I saw:

  • Every taxi rank in Central Liverpool clogged up with private cars obviously parked there for the night
  • Dozens of private hire drivers either waiting on those taxi ranks or illegally ranking at appropriate places as they know people leave particular types of premises. The person I was with approached one of these and the driver immediately offered to take him to Aigburth for a tenner. Probably not on the financial system so avoiding tax.
  • Private hire vehicles blatantly acting as taxis and taking people away without having been called on their radio through a central booking system.
  • Private Hire cars from 7 Boroughs outside Liverpool clearly not just dropping people off from their own areas but touting for trade.
  • Taxis, of all types, wilfully ignoring traffic signs, including private hire going the wrong way down a one-way street.

Why am I concerned about this? Surely all we need to do is ensure that people get home quickly after a night out. Well I have four concerns:

  1. If you get a Black Hackney in Liverpool you know that you are getting a driver in a proper vehicle, who is properly insured as properly qualified. This also is true for the private hire trade which is owned by local firms.
  2. If private hires and private cars are illegally parking in or using taxi ranks then the Hackney taxis cannot park there and wait for custom. That means they are having to circle around the city centre adding to both congestion and pollution while they wait to be flagged down.
  3. People getting into private hires without having asked for them in the first place are entering potential danger zone. They are also uninsured if there is an accident because they obtained a fare illegally.
  4. Traffic regulations, one way streets and safe parking areas are there for a reason. Anyone, but especially professional drivers’ who blatantly ignore them are placing a large number of people in danger.
  5. Many of the people coming in to Liverpool from elsewhere have not done the knowledge for Liverpool. In fact they don’t need to do a ‘knowledge’ test at all. Being a taxi driver is a lot more than just going the quickest way from point A to point B. It’s about being an ambassador for the City; advising strangers and having a duty of care to the people they are looking after.

It seemed to me that Liverpool City Council has abandoned its duties of care to the people of Liverpool and visitors by not being far more proactive on these issues. I saw no Taxi enforcement staff although there may have been some on duty. The Police were looking for trouble of a different sort and were just ignoring traffic infringements which were taking place under their nose.

Tomorrow I will be doing two things:

  1. Asking for a meeting with both the City Manager and BID team to see what can be done in the short term to tackle these pressing issues; and
  2. Asking our Regional Mayor candidate, Cllr Carl Cashman, to immediately bring together the taxi licensing staff of the 6 Boroughs to try and coordinate their work. We need to have a coherent strategy to deal with these issues but also across the whole conurbation as drivers with cheaper vehicles and running costs abuse the honey pot of central Liverpool on a Friday or Saturday night.

This is not a minor issue. This is not about unfair regulation of a specific sector. This is about the safety of people in the City; the quality of the experience that they get; it’s about promoting the wonderful City Centre that we have on a 24 hour basis and it’s about making sure that Liverpool taxi and private hire drivers get a fair crack of the whip from the market and money which is available.

 

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Liverpool Lib Dems target Liverpool Wavertree as they announce their team for General Election 2017

Rally

Keeping our strongest possible relationships with Europe and the rest of the World will be a key aim of the Liverpool Lib Dem campaign

Liverpool Liberal Democrats have today become the first Party in Liverpool to announce their team for the 2017 General Election.

The team will be led by the Leader of the Lib Dems in Liverpool Cllr Richard Kemp who will contest the Liverpool Wavertree seat. Anna Martin will contest Garston and Halewood; Tom Sebire will contest Liverpool Riverside; Kris Brown will contest Liverpool Walton and Paul Parr will contest Liverpool West Derby.

Cllr Kemp says: “All the evidence is that Liverpool Wavertree which voted heavily for Remain is within the Lib Dems grasp this time. In Parliamentary and local elections up and down the Country the 48% who opposed Brexit and coalescing behind Lib Dem candidates. In Wavertree as in the rest of the Country we will be offering a clear pro-Europe and internationalist message.

This will be a good election for the Lib Dems in Liverpool. After the near rout in 2015 we have trebled our membership; doubled our number of councillors; have money in the bank and are eager for the fight. Last year’s Mayoral Election when my vote went up from 6 to 21% shows the direction of travel in the City. This can also be clearly seen by the fact that 20 people have joined us since the PM announced her cut and run tactic of an early election.

We will fight against Brexit and for Liverpool’s place in the World; we will fight to reverse savage Tory cuts made in benefits in the last two years; we will fight to refashion our National Health Service and integrate it with social care; we will defend our environment and green spaces with new proposals for legislation to protect the nation’s parks including those under threat from Labour in Liverpool”.

ENDS:  Cllr Kemp can be contacted on 07885 626913

Photographs of all candidates attached

Our Lib Dem Team:

Sebire 2

Tom Sebire:    Tom joined the Liberal Democrats in 2015, following the General Election. He lives in Liverpool and is supporting the continued drive to re-establish a strong Lib Dem presence on Liverpool City Council. He stood as a candidate for St Michaels ward in the 2016 elections. Tom is married to Catherine, a junior doctor working in Liverpool. Tom is a management consultant, working with Water and Energy companies to improve their processes and organisations, helping them to deliver a better and more efficient service to customers. Tom is passionately pro-European, and is determined to maintain our privileged economic relationship with the EU.

My Documents

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE:  Richard is the longest serving member of Liverpool City Council completing 34 years of service at the end of April. In addition to serving as a Liverpool Councillor he was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Local Government and Vice Chair of the LGA for 8 years. He currently serves as Lib Dem Spokes on Health & Social Care at the LGA. He is married to Erica who served as a councillor for 23 years and was Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 2014/15.

Anna Martin

Anna Martin:                     Anna is a local business owner in Garston and has lived in the area all of her life.  Anna is Secretary of the Liverpool Lib Dems and stood in Garston and Halewood in 2015. She increased the vote for Cressington ward in the 2016 local elecitons. Anna will be working closely with local councillors Mirna Juarez and Malcolm Kelly to deliver a great result on 8th June and build the foundations for more Lib Dem gains on the council.  Anna is partnered to Kris Brown, Liverpool Walton candidate and has three children.

Parr (2)

Paul Parr:                            Paul lives in West Derby village with his wife, Dr Elizabeth Parr. He is a management consultant in financial services and enjoys spending his spare time with family and on his allotment. Paul was a city councillor in Knotty Ash from 2007 to 2011 and, having stood for Parliament in West Derby in 2010 and 2015, is standing in this election as the local candidate who is passionate about our area and will work hard for everyone.

Kris B

Kris Brown:         Kris is currently Chair of the Liverpool Liberal Democrats and stood for Wallasey at the 2015 General Election.  Kris works and studies in mental health care and has previously worked for John Pugh MP where he organised the election/re-election of many Lib Dem councillors.  Kris was the Agent for Britain Stronger in Europe for Liverpool in the June 2016 referendum.  He partners Garston and Halewood candidate, Anna Martin and has two children.

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Only the Liberal Democrats can stop a huge Tory majority

LibDemBird

The Lib Dem Bird is flying high as we  enter the first hurdle of the County and Regional Elections. It will be soaring when the gains come in after those elections and before the recently announced General Election

When I woke up this morning I did not think that by midday I would be talking to journalists from across the City Region about a General Election.

I had to think on my feet but fortunately as you can see from my last blog I had already been doing some thinking about the likely course of politics and who the main runners and rider are.

I was particularly thinking and talking about the recent leaked internal polling of the Tories when I was on the media earlier. This polling suggests that the Lib Dems will take back most, if not all, of the seats that the Lib Dems lost to them in 2015. In particular the pollster suggest that the Lib Dem seats are strongest in London and the South West.

This corresponds to the latest real votes that have been cast in council and parliamentary by-elections. In SW London the Lib Dems took back the seat of Richmond Park which we actually lost in 2010. The Greens didn’t stand and Labour lost their deposit. In fact the Labour candidate got less votes than the number of members of the Labour Party in the Constituency!

In the South West there have been a stunning set of gains in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Avon from everyone in site in local elections. In both cases real votes have been given in very large numbers to the Lib Dems which backs up the polling over a wider field.

Four things have been apparent in all the 5 Parliamentary elections held recently.

  1. Labour dropped in some cases very badly.
  2. The Tory vote basically flat lined at levels below that you would have expected given their apparent runaway lead in the polls.
  3. Greens, UKIP and the rest are absolutely nowhere. The Greens have lost their deposit in all the fights that they even contested.
  4. There has been a marked increase in the Lib Dem vote in all Constituencies. The lowest increase in the Lib Dem vote was approximately 6% and in Witney and Richmond it was 30%+

I was also thinking about the last General Election in 2015. The Lib Dems were like rabbits in a cars headlights. Dispirited; tired and lacking in financial and human resource we went into the trenches. We didn’t quite expect the annihilation we got but we didn’t think the outcomes would be good. Today it’ a very different Party. Our membership is more than double what it was less than 2 years ago. In fact I understand that more than 1,000 have joined today. We will go into the election on the back of local elections where a minimum level of gains is thought to be 100 council seats on top of the 45 gained last May and the net 33 gained since then.

The same is true in Liverpool. Our members is 250% higher than it was in 2015. We had a very good result in local elections for both the Mayoralty and the City council wards last year and have a plan in place to make a minimum of 7 gains next year. We are not over endowed with cash but we are solvent and have real money to spend on campaigning.

Why has she done it? May has a number of problems and an opportunity:

  1. She does not lead a united party with massive differences in opinion between remainers; soft Brexiters and hard Brexiteers.
  2. She does not have a coherent position on what to do next. She and the Chancellor; Foreign Secretary; Brexit Secretary and Business Secretary have vastly different ideas about what to aim for in the negotiations which must take place.
  3. She does not want to complete negotiations which will be eminently unsatisfactory and face a General Election very soon after.

On the plus side she has er…. Jeremy Corbyn! No-one thinks that he can effectively lead Labour into and through a General Election. No-one thinks that Labour will not lose seats in June. The Labour Party is deeply divided. Even after the General Election was announced I heard Labour members on the radio and TV calling for the de-selection of this MP or that MP.

The Liberal Democrat positions will be very clear:

  1. Demand a second referendum to let the people decide whether they want the deal negotiated for them by the Tories;
  2. Fight in the meantime to ensure that immigration; the single market; tariffs; the role of our universities and many other things are forcefully and coherently negotiated for.
  3. To ensure that there is adequate funding in place for the NHS and Social care Services. We will make clear that we want to put up income tax and/or other taxes to pay for what is needed and will bring together at a local level all the services to ensure a smooth and effective path through difficulties for all patients but especially the elderly;
  4. Fight for our environment and reverse the cuts that have been made in things like solar power subsides since 2015.
  5. Create a level playing field within education for all schools and find the money to reverse the cuts made since 2015.
  6. Send much decision making to local communities and break the power of Westminster and Whitehall over the many day to day decisions which they currently take.

There will be other policies too but of course the ones above have been clearly foretold by Tim Farron and Norman Lamb.

So we’re up for it. As the fighters say, “bring it on”. Only a fool will make too firm a prediction at this stage but I am absolutely confident that the Lib Dem vote will have a very big increase as will the numbers of Lib Dem MPs.

Onwards and upwards. I’m now off to deliver a boot full of newspapers which are the last of our 50,000 run in support of Cllr Carl Cashman. We will do well in that; well in Wavertree and then take stock for at least 24 hours after May 4 to map out our General Election proposals.

 

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The State of Labour – the State of our City

harmer

Joe Harmer and I after he was selected as our Wavertree Candidate. He and Cllr Carl Cashman our candidate for Regional Mayor are the face of the political future in Liverpool and our City Region

The biggest political headline in Liverpool last week was the one about the Labour Party being split on the leaflet to go out on behalf of their hapless Regional Mayor Candidate. We actually knew about the e-mail from Cllr Munby to his Cabinet Colleagues because we had been sent it by first class post, to ensure it arrived quickly, to our Lib Dem HQ in Smithdown Road.

It’s a pretty torrid time when someone from a Labour Cabinet (and we don’t know who) starts leaking contentious information to the main opposition party. It must have been one of the cabinet members because they were the only ones on the circulation list.

But should we be surprised?  That’s what is happening nationally as well as locally. Two Labour MPs have disappeared from the scene to well paid jobs. Three Labour MPs are hoping to salvage their political careers by becoming regional MPs. 5,000 ordinary members have left Labour and joined the Lib Dems. 50,000 people in total have left the Labour Party.

The leaflet was all about the 80s in Liverpool. Well again that is just typical of the Party locally and nationally. Jeremy Corbyn and some of his TU acolytes and Momentum supporters are still fighting the battles of the 70s and 80s when people worked in large factories and large industries and the internet hadn’t been invented. Those days of union power in the old sense through mass labour support are gone forever. Tony Blair knew that as he tried, and succeeded for a while, in broadening the appeal of the Parry outside its traditional class roots.

Inside the council chamber Labour pushes motion after motion slamming the coalition government. They totally ignore the fact that there have been 3 budgets since the coalition ended and that the pace of austerity has been massively increased since then. Never mind that they still have a go at the Lib Dems because they have no positive answers either locally or nationally. They ignore the fact that the coalition that people are talking about on the door step is the one between Corbyn and May as they get together to hurtle the UK over the Brexit cliff with appalling consequences for the UK and especially places like Liverpool which rely heavily on international trade and the ability of our universities to work across Europe and indeed the World.

In Liverpool and nationally the Lib Dems offer a real alternative. On May 4 there are two votes in the City. Along with the rest of the Liverpool City Region we are voting for a Regional Mayor. Our candidate, Carl Cashman is a cracker. Yes, as has been pointed out to me regularly, he is young. But he is the Leader of the Lib Dems in Knowsley, has a first class brain and a first class manifesto. He is the only candidate who understands the importance of the EU to our City Region. As he says so acutely, “the EU didn’t forget us in the 80s and we are not going to forget the EU now”. His manifesto has strong ideas about transport, training; our place in the world and health which puts him as the only candidate who both understands the key issues and has policies to deal with them.

In Liverpool’s Wavertree and Wirral’s Claughton Wards there are council, by-elections. I am delighted that in Claughton it is the son of an old friend of mine Lord Evans of Claughton who is fighting to regain the seat from Labour. Gruffyd Evans was a Trojan member of the Party for many years on Birkenhead and then Wirral and Merseyside he led many initiatives and then brought his own Welsh/Scouse humour to the House of Lords.

In Wavertree it is a member, Joe Harmer, who only joined the Party 18 months ago who is fighting for us. His Lib Dem pedigree is longer than that however. His Dad, Roger, is the Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems on Birmingham Council. Joe has been delivering Focus with his Dad since he was 7! He has imprinted in his DNA the need to be out in the community; representing the community and fighting for the community more than pratting around in the Town Hall.

Like me he is appalled at what he sees in Wavertree. Erica and I represented about a quarter of Wavertree Ward until 2004. I was actually asked on Thursday whether I was still the councillor for the area. “We never see our councillors now like we did when you, Erica and the other Lib Dems were our councillor’s,” is something I pick up on door after door. Parts of the ward are filthy. So we have already made great strides in cleaning up areas, getting potholes fixed and dealing with rat infestations which should never have occurred.

 

Outside Wavertree there was an appalling article in the paper about the state of Kensington. Kensington has some deep rooted problems which cannot be fixed overnight. But many of those problems would have been fixed by councillors who were out in their communities. Cleanliness, street lighting, clean ups; potholes make a huge difference to people’s lives. Working with the police to deal with anti-social behaviour and crime. Labour of course, try to blame this on austerity because they have no answers to these problems. It is not money but attitude that will solve these problems. An acceptance by councillors, the council and local representatives that together these problems need to be worked through.

 

What was particularly sad was that Kensington residents turned anonymously to the Liverpool Echo for help because they did not know where to turn. When our Deputy Leader, Cllr Andrew Makinson, reposted the Echo’s shocking article he was instantly attacked by the ever comical Cllr Nick Small for ‘dissing’ Kensington. I had to point out that it was not our article but that of the fiercely independent Liverpool Echo and their political reporter Liam Thorp who had exposed these problems. The blame appears to be everyone’s and anyone’s apart from the Labour Party who have actually been running things for 7 years.

 

Whether you are in Liverpool, the Liverpool City Region or live further afield I hope that you will be giving your vote on May 4 to the Lib Dems, the only united party fighting the cliff-edge of Brexit and coming up with strong and hard proposals to deal with them. In our area Joe Harmer and Carl Cashman are in the vanguard of political change which is so badly needed. Only Labour or the Lib Dems can win here. You will either vote Lib Dem; or support the Party of Jeremy Corbyn and Joe Anderson or you won’t use your vote to fight the two J’s. Please think about it. See you at the ballot box!

 

 

 

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The Four Key unanswered questions about the EFC Stadium Deal

Everton_FC

The new EFC stadium is not a done deal while major questions such as those I have asked below remain unanswered

As readers of my blog will know I have asked a series of questions about the proposed move of EFC to the North Docks. As I put in the article I am in favour of this proposals providing the finances really do stack up. To my mind the figures do not yet convince me of this.

I am not the only one. Former Labour MP and Minister, Peter Kilfoyle, is rasing very sinmiular questions in his own blog. The inability of EFC and Liverpool Council to answere basic questiosn sucha s these is worrying even the most ardent Blues supporter.

I append below the full answers that I have got from the Council. They leave four big gaps in our public understanding of the deal. I say public because it is always possible that the Council know more than they are telling me as a mere elected representative of the people!

The four gaps in the evidence are these:

  1. Why does a company controlled by a billionaire need an external guarantee for its finances? If, for example, Marks and Spencer wanted to build the stadium they would guarantee it against their own assets. There would be no expectation of the council or any part of the public sector being needed to supply a guarantee. According to the reply from the Council they do not know the answer to this question and have suggested that I ask EFC. But they should know the answer if they are adequately assessing the risk of this way forward.

 

  1. What is the difference between what the council can borrow for and what EFC can borrow for. It is true that councils can borrow at an all-time low and lower than anyone else. But it is also true that every credit-worthy organisation can borrow relatively cheaply as well. The cost of the insurance cover for the loan to develop the stadium plus the anticipated profit being made by the council implies a minimum of 1.66% difference between our borrowing charges and EFCs. Again to use the M & S analogy the spread between the two levels of interest would be nowhere near as high the maximum would be a difference of about half a percentage point.

 

  1. What will the public sector costs be for the infrastructure around the Stadium and where will it come from? The answer from the council does not quantify the costs but suggests that one route for financing them would be the Section 106 planning agreement. The suggestions that I have heard is that the external costs will be in the order of £100 million and that no-one has yet begun to either firmly quantify the work that will be needed or say where the money will come from. The S106 agreement, if indeed it has been included in the stadium’s costs, are unlikely to come to more than £3 million. With no money available from the EU and funds from the UK Government restricted where will the remaining £97 million come from? The only way that I can see is by the bending of already strained budgets for roads and infrastructure throughout the rest of the city.

 

  1. What will happen to the existing ground and the area surrounding it? Given that the stadium will have a net negative asset value considering the need to demolish and remediate the land who will pay for that given the shortage of funds as identified above? What will happen to the County Road area and the businesses that in part depend on the stadium? It is clear from the answer from the council below that no thoughts have been given to this so there is no understanding of the financial implications either.

 

It is vital that these questions are answered if these proposals are to be seen through successfully as we would all like to see. Answering them half way through a building and development programme provides a greater element of risk that the council should be prepared to take for a proposals which is mostly about a private sector company no matter how beloved the Blues are to a certain part of the City.

Either the Council does not know the answers to these vital questions OR it is not telling me them. That is not good enough in a democracy that Liverpool City Council is supposed to be. Am I being too hard on the council? Well I append the replies I received in full and wholly unaltered to see what you think about them and so that you can judge for yourself. Let me know what you think. In the meantime I will carry on with the job that I have at present – scrutinising what the council is doing on behalf of the people of our City.

The questions and answers:

 

  1. Why is a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’ needed for a transaction that should be relatively simple? Club builds stadium, club uses stadium!

 

The funder will grant a 40 year lease to the LCC SPV and the LCC SPV will grant a 40 year (less one day) occupational lease to EFC. The rent paid by EFC to the LCC SPV will be greater than the rent paid by LCC SPV to the funder. LCC SPV will retain the difference between the rents, which is the security fee. The SPV sits in the middle of the leasing transaction between the funder and the Club and the funds provided by the funder are repaid by the rent.

 

  1. Why do the billionaires who own EFC need a guarantee from a third party? In fact why do they need a loan at all? Surely they should be able to fund the development either from their own resources or by giving ‘mortgages’ against their own existing assets.

 

This is a question for EFC.

 

2a. You suggested that Liverpool will make a profit of about £4/5 million by providing the guarantee. This implies a very large difference between the interest rate with a guarantee and without. What interest rates has this been based on without and with a guarantee?

 

LCC will receive a security fee. LCC is securing not financing the lease obligations of LCC SPV, which will be paid the security fee and rent by EFC. The security fee is anticipated to be in the order of £4-5M based on a projected new Stadium cost (estimated to be just in excess of £300M). The security fee will be determined by professional advisors.

 

2b. Will an insurance based vehicle system be provided to ensure that we do not in fact lose out over this. Is this a lump sum or an annual payment? Has this been allowed for in the £4/5 million profit figure for the Council.

 

What is meant by an insurance based vehicle system?

The security fee will be paid annually, in one lump sum.

 

  1. What assets are available to the council to use against a guarantee if, for any reason, work stopped on the development before the stadium was completed.

 

The funds for the full amount of the Stadium cost would be made available by the funder simultaneously with the parties entering into the leasing structure.

All necessary due diligence will be carried out by the Council in relation to the funder and the full funding required to complete the stadium construction. Any cost overruns would be the responsibility of EFC.

 

  1. What will happen to EFC’s current ground? I understand that it will have a negative value when the club and its revenue stream move out. It will cost more to develop and remediate the land than the land will be sold for.

 

Considerable consideration is currently being given by EFC to Goodison Park. The Council understands no firm decision has been made yet, but EFC intend to use the Stadium move to facilitate a vital Legacy Project at Goodison Park, delivering health, education, affordable housing and public spaces for the local community which is likely to stimulate further investment in the L4 area. EFC will enter into detailed community engagement before finalising the plans for Goodison Park.

 

  1. What will happen to those pubs, snack bars etc. who currently make a considerable part of their income from the EFC presence? Will they be given preference for the new facilities around the new ground and will they be able to afford it?

 

The Council understands ideas for the new Stadium and Goodison Park are at initial stages. No detailed consideration has been given to the new stadium potential occupiers but ideas and a vision will form part of the planning/consultation process at a future date.

 

  1. How much will the public sector need to put in to make this work? The report makes clear that the Club needs no finance from the Council for the stadium but who is going to pay for everything else? There will need to be a huge investment in roads; transport; a new station; new services and general infrastructure to mean that the stadium is accessible and useable.

 

This deal involves no capital outlay by the Council. The Council’s Cabinet report details the plans that are already underway including complementary regeneration schemes and highways investment for the area. As part of a new Stadium development, the Club would also be obliged to make s106 and s278 contributions which will support their development proposal in planning terms.

 

  1. What will the costs be to the public sector for this external activity? Given that a large amount of the money for L1 public works came from the EU, a source no longer available to us, will the money have to come from other road etc? Programmes for which there is already little cash in the pot?

 

The Council has already identified funding and reported to Cabinet on plans to significantly upgrade the A565 to provide a dual carriageway road. This will create a robust corridor and an important link for freight traffic to the Port of Liverpool new Liverpool2 deep water container terminal and businesses along the route, including Liverpool Waters and Bramley-Moore Dock and in the north of the City.

Regent Road which separates the 10 Streets District from Liverpool Waters will also benefit from upgrades to public realm to create a more pedestrian friendly environment for visitors to the area.

Both projects are funded through LRGF (Liverpool Regional Growth Fund) and DfT (Department for Transport) funding.

The City Council is also progressing wider Highway Infrastructure Proposals which will provide new east-west links which will form a gateway to Liverpool Waters and to the new Cruise Liner Terminal and Isle of Man Ferry Terminal in the future.

Consideration will be given to any other highway upgrades and links required as a result of the new Stadium.

 

  1. Why is there no consideration being given to the vital infrastructure questions in this report. Do we know what is needed? Have we any idea of the costs of the programme of action which will ensue?

 

At the appropriate time, full consideration will be given to any other necessary infrastructure to overcome any challenges and address what is needed, and costs, as a result of the new Stadium.

EFC will also participate with LCC and other parties as appropriate in the master-planning and development of the wider regeneration of the area, therefore maximising the opportunities to create synergies between individual developments and therefore benefits.

 

 

 

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Let the Teachers teach!

art schools

“All schools should be art schools”, say these posters. Perhaps that would help broaden the highly restricted curriculum which many schools now offer.

I looked with interest at the proposals by the Labour Party to add VAT on to the school fees at private schools and use the money raised to fund free school meals for all at schools in the state sector up to the age of 11. The way they would do this is seriously flawed and shows as usual that they are simply unable to add up (or subtract for that matter!) It is based on the assumption that after adding on the VAT everyone would continue the school fees at the increased level. I think that is highly unlikely. I suspect that the addition would push many over the edge and bring pupils back into the state sector. That may be a good objective but it would need paying for and would eat into much of the gains from VAT impositions.

But the principle is right. Children cannot concentrate if they are hungry. Too many children do not get an adequate breakfast (or indeed any breakfast) and too many do not get a decent meal at lunch time. That is why the Lib Dems were right in Government to ensure that all up to the age of seven get a decent midday meal.

Not only is this good for educational reasons but also good for health reasons. Too many of the children who take in packed lunches take in sugar and salt laden rubbish. It is a major cause of the childhood obesity problem and having at least one balanced salt and sugar minimised meal a day is a good way of dealing with this problem.

Of course lack of money is not the only reason children do not get fed properly in the morning. As I sit in my window in the morning I can always tell what time it is in the pre – 09.00 school rush by watching who goes past at what time! It’s always the same parents throwing themselves up the road 10 seconds before the school door closes! Being prepared and thinking through the needs of their children for proper nourishment just does not seem to happen in some families.

But thoughts about food and education have led me increasingly to ask a basic question. What is education for? It seems to me that we have a major problem in our society with too much of the school curriculum geared not for education but exam passing. Indeed some of our schools seem to have become soulless exam factories rather than academies, in the widest sense of the term, for learning.

My youngest Rachel was the only one of my children which went through her entire school career being tested hard at the end of every year. She did well on it and went through University and came out with a good degree. But many fall by the wayside because of the exam based approach that is taken. Of course we do need exams and we do need testing. Every teacher tests every child every day in the real world. They note progress or lack of it and adjust teaching for each child where possible within the needs of the class to ensure that progress is maintained.

But so much of what the teacher has to do seems to me to be the antithesis of teaching. Their job is to get the kid through the exams and this get the school up the league tables.

If I were the Secretary of State for Education I would do five things:

  1. Massively reduce the role of Ofsted to be an organisation which does big overview stuff and not detailed nit picking.
  2. Explicitly increase the role of the local authority to be the strategic body for the education up to 18 of all children no matter who is the provider of the school.
  3. Reduce the number of tests and exams which children need to take ensuring that they are taken are the right time and in the right.
  4. Strip away much of the National Curriculum to leave a basis in which children are taught core competences.
  5. Let teachers get on with the job of teaching by freeing them from the strictures of the National Curriculum. Of course there must be a core of activity which leads to literacy and numeracy. Of course knowledge about our history and the world around us must be acquired. But this can best be done by teachers who understand the kids and the environment in which they live and help those kids use that environment for learning purposes.

There are only two big questions that we should ask of any learning establishment and that includes Universities and Colleges:

  1. Do the pupils or students within it want to learn? Are they interested in what’s happening and are they thirsting for knowledge?
  2. Are the staff capable of responding to that thirst with energy and initiative?

Frankly I meet too many teachers and lecturers who at the moment cannot fulfil the second of these. I don’t believe that in the vast majority of cases it’s their fault. They are doing their best within a harsh and restrictive system to encourage the first of these. To do so they often have to ‘fight’ not only the system but also often parents and OFSTED.

The results of these are obvious. People are leaving our systems at 16, 18, 21 or older who are ill-equipped for work or for life generally. Increasingly employers are looking beyond the exams, once a basic competency has been established, to see what the young person has been done. Can they debate; do they want to learn; can they present themselves well; are they fit and healthy; do they exhibit an interest in the community around them and the world around the community?

That’s what school and education used to be about but far too little of these are applied today. It was summed up for me recently when I went in to the home of a young constituent who I knew was a graduate. I asked him where he kept his books because there were none on display. I thought the answer would be that he gets them on kindle or some other device. His answer actually chilled me. “I haven’t read a book since I got my degree”, he told me. “I’m done with all that sort of thing!”

Done with learning? I hope I will learn things until the day I die. 16 years in the education system and we have destroyed this young man’s wish to learn and develop. What an indictment of successive governments and the schools and University he went to. He is not alone and this MUST change.

 

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It was Fifty Years Ago Today

Grimond

Rt Hon Jo Grimond. One of the finest orators I have ever heard and a huge liberal in thoughts, principles and practice

Okay it is confession time. For the past 18 months I have been lurking in the Lib Dem Newbies Facebook page at the request of the notorious Daisy Benson. Some of you might have guessed that I am not quite a Newbie but because I look so youthful you might not have appreciated just how long it is since I joined the Party. In fact today is the 50th Anniversary of my going to a meeting at the home a quite remarkable woman, Cllr Mrs Neva Orrell and signed up to be a Young Liberal. Do you know that although it has not been the easiest of paths to be a Liberal there is not one day in those fifty years (well perhaps just the odd one or two) that I have regretted joining up and serving my country by fighting for the liberal, democratic ideals which even Theresa May realises are at the heart of a successful UK.

Tim Farron and I have something in common. He too joined the Party at 72, Turpin Green Lane, Leyland. When I asked him recently how old he was when I joined his answer was minus 3! My revenge on him will be assured! But what a woman she was. It’s not too easy being a Lib Dem Cllr now when at our worst levels there have been 1,800 of us out of about 22,000 in England. Just imagine what it must have been like being one of just 300 Liberal councillors out of more than 50,000 which was the figure prior to the local government reorganisation in 1973.

The Liberal Party almost disappeared then only clinging on in a handful of seats because of local eccentricities or pacts. The greatest orator that I have ever personally heard Jo Grimond hauled us back from the brink of disaster and led our predecessors to the ‘sound of gunfire’.

My own personal highlights are linked to so many other people and events.

I went to my first Young Liberal Conference and got told off by Tony (now Lord) Greaves for being too noisy. He was a grumpy old bugger even then!

I rapidly became a “Jones Boy!” I was one of the earliest converts to the concepts and practices of Community Politics which I had voted for at a Young Liberal Assembly and then helped Sir Trevor Jones put into practice in Liverpool and elsewhere.

I was the organiser for David Austick when we won the Ripon by-election in 1973 on the same day that Clement Freud won the Isle of Ely.

I spent many hours helping Graham (now Lord) Tope become the MP for Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park. Printing leaflets for him and then sleeping on them on the back of a van taking them down to be delivered the next day.

I moved to Liverpool between the two General Elections in 1974 to become David (now Lord) Alton’s agent. Edge Hill was one of the three constituencies in the Country where the Liberal vote increased between the two elections.

Having arrived in Liverpool at the end of May 1974 I became a councillor at the beginning of May 1975. I gained a seat back from the Tories by 56 votes that we had lost in a by-election the previous summer. Just think there used to be Tories in Liverpool.

As a new councillor I was shocked by what I saw when I became responsible for the homeless. Liverpool was the first city in the Country to close the Common Lodging Houses exemplified in Orwell’s ‘Down and out in London and Paris’.

When I became responsible for housing as a whole we had the biggest housing cooperative programme in the whole of Western Europe. Every one of them forced through in the teeth of Labour opposition.

In 1998 we took overall control for the first time of Liverpool City Council. I remember following Mike (now Lord) Storey as he left BBC Radio Merseyside to go to the victory party leaving me to respond to a series of questions about policies that he announced that none of the rest of us knew anything about.

I then got my best ever job in 2005 when I became the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in local government and Vice Chair of the LGA. At 9.15 I was copied into an e-mail from the LGA. At 9.30 I got another e-mail in which I was an addressee and not copied in. That could only mean one thing, the previous Leader, Sir Chris Clark, had failed to gain a seat after moving to live in another County. Such is the brutal nature of electoral politics you are either definitely in or very definitely out!  I was never actually elected as Leader at the LGA as the 4 times I was up I was returned unopposed.

And so it goes on to this day when a young man called Joe Harmer, has literally just knocked at my door to go delivering. We are going to get him elected to the Council in a bye-election on May 4th for Wavertree Ward.

Of course there have been downs. The elections where we didn’t make it. Going down to just 2 members of the Liverpool City Council from a height of 68. Until last May you had to be called Kemp, represent Church Ward and have a CBE to be a Lib Dem councillor. Now we are up to 4 councillors and whilst not yet firing on all 4 cylinders we are certainly looking forward to any elections in this City much more than the Labour Party.

As Frank Sinatra sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention”. So I won’t!

This Party has given me great friendships; great opportunities; a place from which I could do things for people and a spirit which has been unquenched in even the darkest times.

Even now I can deliver faster and longer than most 20 year olds and love the doorstep. Even now I look for new challenges within the Party and have just suggested new way of developing quick responses to Government Policy that seems to meet general approval.

Who knows what the future holds?    Providing I’m healthy I will continue to look for new challenges in the Party I love to do good things for the City I love. As long as I have the person I love (the gorgeous and ever forgiving Erica Kemp) beside me I’m up for the fight.

I hope that all those 45,000+ people who have joined our Party recently will be able to look back in 20 years or even 50 and also say that they made the right decisions for themselves; their community and their Country as I am able to do today.

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