John Lennon Comes back to “Allerton in August”

Agreement in principle has been reached with Laura Lian the sculptress of this beautiful statue of John Lennon to bring it to Penny Lane for the remainder of the summer and autumn especially to commemorate his 80th Birthday and the day he was shot.

The 1st of August kicks off a month of activity led by councillors, traders and community groups to get the business and residential communities going again in the Liverpool 18 area.

Not only are we having a series of events at weekends but we are also looking in the longer term at a series of projects including making some changes in the pavement and road layouts to allow more pavement cafes and to allow easier pedestrian movement about the area. We also are preparing a Beatles Heritage trail which will encourage people to walk the area and can now confirm that we will be bringing a 6ft. high bronze statue of John Lennon to the area firstly to the Penny Lane Development Trust and then, hopefully, later to a site outside St Barnabas Church.

Our events package is designed to make Penny Lane, Rose Lane and Allerton Road the premier destination for leisure activities in South Liverpool.

We are working with Allerton in Bloom to create a green corridor from Penny Lane to the Library and to develop a small garden area in The Square.

To make sure that we are doing the right things we have circulated surveys to more than 10,000 local homes to which we received more than 600 replies which shows that local people want to eat out and enjoy facilities more in the area that they can walk or cycle to. They also want to use more independent stores

We have also held two meetings virtually with traders and business people. They have now set up their own association to take things forward.

The heart would be knocked out of our area if the shutters came down permanently on local businesses on our major shopping streets and there is a determination from the local community, traders with support from the Council that this will not happen.

You can help the area and its traders by using these local traders who keep our High Street going and pay their taxes and spend their profits locally.

Events in August

1st August        9 – 1.   Farmer’s Market and community stall, Allerton Road

8th August       10 – 4  Craft Fair, Mansion House, Calderstones Park

15th August     9 – 1     Farmers Market and community stall, Allerton Road

29th August     11- 4     Craft Fair and Beatles themes weekend, Penny Lane Development Trust

All day. Food and Drink Festival along Allerton Road which will be attended by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Anna Rothery.

Unveiling of the Lennon Statue – to be announced!

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Liverpool in the next to bottom category on Transparency International Report

Sadly Liverpool is once again getting national publicity for all the wrong reasons. It’s hardly surprising that we should score so low given our historic development problems

I have today reacted with sadness and anger over a report which has placed Liverpool in the next to bottom category (out of 6) in a report prepared by Transparency International.

It is extremely sad that Liverpool is once again hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons in regard to its development activities.

This is a professional report from an organisation that is respected globally for its ability to root out incompetence and worse in governments at all levels.

In highlighting the Chinatown Project, they are looking at the tip of the iceberg in developments in Liverpool where, between 2010 and 2018 up to £1 billion may have been lost or misapplied.  It has been publicly stated by the Police that their investigations into development in our City go far deeper than this case and there are clear elements of corruption which need to be exposed and rooted out. Both the Police and the Council are conducting far reaching enquiries into the City’s development scene and I am getting increasing confident that these enquiries will soon reach a very public conclusion.

Liberal Democrats hope for three things for the future:

  • We hope that the Police and the Council will very swiftly draw their investigations to a conclusion and take action in a variety of ways against those inside and outside the Council who have caused these losses. As the saying goes justice must not only be done but it must be seen to be done.
  • We hope that the Council will take this report seriously and not brush it off. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will press for the Council to adopt all recommendations in this report which apply to councils. We have prepared a motion to this which we will present to the Councils Standards and Constitutional Committees
  • We hope that the Council will produce its own report and recommendations which arose from its Fractional Investment Task Group which started work 2 years ago; finished work one year ago but has yet to report. It is an absolute scandal that the Council has yet to make this report public.

I am optimistic that since our Chief Executive, Tony Reeves, arrived in post in September 2018 many of the development problems in the City have been dealt with. However, the Council must now publicly show that things have changed and that Liverpool is in a stronger place where decent developers will have confidence in coming to our City instead of seeing it as a failed, pariah council.

But the Labour Party must accept their responsibility for what has happened on their watch. Liverpool is at the centre of property scams throughout the United Kingdom and Eire. Labour need to take a serious look at themselves and ask why this happened and review their total failure to oversee the staff of the Council as they brought the wrong investments to our City.

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Liverpool’s Green Spaces under renewed threat

One of the many rallies held in Calderstones Park when local Councillors, organisations and campaigners came together to fight off the Council’s plans to develop 13 acres with Redrow Homes. We believe parks are now safe but not other green spaces.

The announcement last weekend that the High Court had partially reversed a lower court’s decision on Calderstones Park and the South Liverpool Green Wedge will have important ramifications for development across the city.

What it wont do, or at least I hope it won’t do, is put Calderstones Park under threat again. The High Court agreed with the lower court that the planning application by Redrow had been improperly passed by the planning committee because it had not been given important advice from the Council’s heritage specialists about the impact of the application on Beechley House. This does not stop another application being submitted for the Council to deal with directly.

However, I believe Joe Anderson when he says that the Council will not be selling the land to anyone which would make a new planning application pointless. The Council has been continually rebuffed by the people of Liverpool when it has suggested developments on Calderstones Park, Walton Hall Park and Sefton Park meadowlands. A draft lease has been submitted to Beechley Riding for the Disabled and I will be meeting the Trustees of Beechley soon to see how we can quickly move that forward.

We need to safeguard all our parklands and green spaces. It is now 4 years since the Green Spaces Review and precisely nothing has happened since then in terms of the development of a Trust or Trusts to manage our Parks which was the main recommendation which came out of it. As I understand it the Mayor is looking to have one Parks Trust for the City. Lib Dems however, would favour a series of complementary trusts with local residents and park users taking responsibility for the running of parks like Wavertree Playground, Calderstones Park, Sefton Park and Walton Hall Park. Local people can make better decisions than anyone else when it comes to the use of local assets.

So, if the Council doesn’t now intend to build on the Park or parks in general why has it spent a fortune in fees firstly fighting the JR application from LOGS and then subsequently appealing it?

It’s because the other part of the ruling of the lower court would have made it more difficult for the council to oppose planning applications on land in the green wedge and in similar places identified by our own planning policies. In other words, the Council can now talk very positively to developers such as Redrow about developments on sites not owned by the Council.

Talking to developers is not unusual and is not a bad thing. I would expect the Council to hold such meetings but I would also expect those discussions to be properly recorded and available for inspection. My concern is that the only developer in the frame for suburban developments is Redrow and although they can clearly sell their product their price range inhibits the purchase of land tin the City to a wider range of young people who are still forced out of our city by high property prices.

So, we still need to be vigilant and watch the planning process and planning committee like a hawk. We still need to make huge changes in the way we tackle development and although many improvements have been made by our Chief Executive, Tony Reeves, since he arrived in September 2018 there is still a long way to go to change the public viewpoint of our development processes.

Just as importantly as our developers get rocked by police and tax enquiries and continued bankruptcies and forced closures, we need to convince the Government and legitimate developers of our honesty, probity and the rigour of our internal and external systems.

Once again, I want to record the thanks of the local Lib Dem team for the splendid work done by Save Calderstones Park, Friends of Harthill & Calderstones Park and Liverpool Green and Open Spaces. Between them they raised 51,000 names on a petition, lobbied the Council and raised £40,000+ for the Judicial Review and associated costs.

They are real heroes of our City and not only we but our children, grandchildren and even further down the line will benefit from their hard work and efforts over the past 5 long years of intensive campaigning.

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One year on from PM’s pledge: social care needs a reset

This picture should serve to remind us all that Adult Social Care is not just about the elderly. It starts at the age of 18 for many who would otherwise have died young and will last for the whole of their lives which can be a life span as long as everyone else thanks to medical advances.

Social care needs a reset and must not simply revert back to the way it was prior to the pandemic, a coalition of councils, health and care organisations and charities set out today.

Later today I am chairing a virtual LGA conference of more than 200 people from the public, private and charitable sectors concerned with adult social care. I will also be launching at it the seven key principles that all the organisations have agreed should be the guide for Government action. It will be three years since the Government promised a Green Paper on Adult Social Care and have since announced 4 other dates which were also missed!

It’s also 3 years since the Government held a nationwide pandemic planning event the results of which seem to have been totally ignored!

One year after the Prime Minster first pledged to set out a clear plan to “fix social care”, they insist the Government needs to publish its timetable for social care reform before Parliament returns from summer recess in September.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England, together with 32 other organisations – including the Alzheimer’s Society, NHS Confederation and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services – have put forward a set of key principles, which must underpin reform of social care and support considering the many lessons learned from the pandemic. These will be published at a webinar hosted by the LGA today on the future of adult social care.

These are vital to ensure people of all ages and with a range of different needs can live the life they want to lead, in recognition of social care’s unique value.

The legacy of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has disproportionately affected our older and most vulnerable people, means that a radical rethink is needed of what we want social care to be and how we can help achieve it. Any such plan should take account of the long-held issues facing social care prior to the pandemic and crucially, what we have learnt during the current crisis.

The seven principles cover vital aspects of every part of social care, support and wellbeing, including:

  • Putting people first
  • The importance of social care’s local dimension
  • Adequate and sustainable funding
  • Supporting the care workforce
  • How care is provided and commissioned
  • Health and integration
  • The scope of care and support reform

Many lessons have been learned from the pandemic, both positive and negative, and it has raised the profile of the importance and value of social care in its own right. The LGA said that health and social care are equally important and should have parity of esteem, so that plans to reshape and integrate health and care services in communities are locally agreed and based on local need and priorities.

It is vital that the voice of people with lived experience of social care is heard the most on the way forward. The Government should also work closely with councils and local partners to ensure social care’s role in supporting healthy, resilient communities based on prevention, wellbeing and public health is fully understood and maximised.

Extra funding for social care should not just meet the additional demands caused by COVID-19, but also meet pre-existing pressures that were pushing the system to breaking point before this crisis hit. Before the pandemic, adult social care services faced a funding gap of almost £4 billion by 2025. Funding should be allocated with as few conditions attached as possible and in a way which helps move towards a more person-centred and preventative model of care and support. The Government should also commit to a new deal for the care workforce, acting on pay, training and development.

Care providers have played a critical role in the last few months in keeping people safe and well, alongside the NHS. The pandemic has shown that the ways in which people are supported are many and varied and stretch beyond just residential and home care. This wider mix of often smaller provision is just as important for delivering care and support, which is personalised and focussed on people’s aspirations and strengths.

Given the range of what needs to be done, which these principles set out, there should be plenty of ambitious scope for reform. While the issue of people selling their home to pay for care is an important one in the debate about fairness, reforms need a wider vision about the purpose and value of social care for people of all ages, including unpaid carers.

In opening the Conference I will say the following after having taken my audience on a magical mystery tour of the Penny Lane area to show what the 7 principles mean in practice.

“For too long we have been promised a plan to fix the social care crisis but people who use and work in these vital services are still waiting. The COVID-19 crisis has proved that we need a complete reset, not a restart, when it comes to the future of social care.

“The pandemic has also served to highlight the incredibly valuable role of social care in its own right and why it is more important than ever before that we find a long-term and sustainable solution, so that people of all ages can live the life they want to lead.

“These seven principles, which have support from a number of prominent organisations across the health and care sector, need to inform and underpin the Government’s thinking on the future of adult social care in this country.

“Everyone who has been involved in dealing with the dreadful effects of this disease, including older people, unpaid carers, the most vulnerable and those who support them, deserve to know that the lessons learned will be used in shaping the future.

“This should mean care and support is properly based around every individual, keeping them safe, well and as independent as possible, and in their own home and community for as long as possible.

“We urge the Government and other parties to begin cross-party talks on the future of adult social care, so we can get on with the job of realising our shared ambition of supporting people to live the lives they want to lead.”

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Even Boris Johnson is right sometimes!!

The Sugar Tax worked with an average of 28% less sugar in fizzy drinks. This is small but helpful way forward which did not bring in much extra tax but aided the manufacturers in reducing the sugar content of their products

On the principle that even a broken clock is right twice a day I accept that Johnson is at least getting it right about the dangers to the nation’s health and wealth caused by obesity. His damascene conversion has been caused by the fact that as a seriously obese and unhealthy person he nearly died from the coronavirus when a healthier slimmer man than he might just have been mildly ill. Just 7 months ago he declared war on so-called sin taxes now it looks as if he will be promoting them!

The results of the Health Survey for England 2018 indicate that:

  • Almost three out of 10 people are obese
  • Obesity prevalence continues to rise, particularly among women.
  • Women and men living in the most deprived areas are more likely to be obese than those living in the least deprived areas.

Adults are classed as obese if their body mass index (BMI) is 30kg/m² or more. A BMI of 25 or more is classed as overweight.

High waist circumference is an independent predictor of future obesity-related conditions, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

The prevalence of very high waist circumference is much higher among women than men. Both sexes have seen a large increase since 1993.

Being overweight or obese is linked to a wide range of diseases including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, some cancers, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and musculoskeletal conditions

Obesity can also be associated with poor psychological and emotional health, and poor sleep.

Since 2007, there has been an upward trend in adult obesity and it has been rising faster than previously forecasted. If this rise continues, then between 26.6 per cent and 33.9 per cent of adults could be obese by 2024, although rates could rise further as childhood obesity has not declined in recent years.

The prevalence of severe obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 40kg/m² or more, has increased over the last three decades for both men and women. Overall, a very small proportion of the population are severely obese but the rise in prevalence has been substantial since 1993-1995; a seven-fold increase for men and a 2.9-fold increase for women. Severe obesity prevalence is much higher for women than men.

The really sad thing is that those figures change little from the age of 11 upwards. At that age 3% of children are already morbidly obese and 30% are obese.

Most people really know these things and want to do something about the obesity of themselves and their children. Look at all the adverts for slimming schemes, pills, supplements and diets. Celebrities endorse all these products and they would not clog up our airways if they didn’t have a receptive market.

However, dealing with these problems is not easy. The easy approach would be to condemn those who are overweight or obese and give them a good lecture. We can wag our finger at them and ask if they know that they or their children are almost certain to die younger than their peers; or if they know how many illnesses flow from being overweight. Perhaps sometimes a finger waving is needed but only as part of a positive programme which not only understands why the problem occurs but offers a range of support mechanisms to deal with them.

  • Some people are overweight or obese because they have a mental illness and sometimes they have a mental illness because of their weight.
  • Some people live in poverty without the facilities to create decent meals and the spices and sauces to make good food from scratch
  • Some people have no one to take exercise with so don’t take exercise.
  • Some people live hectic lives and cannot plan ahead effectively if they are on unreliable zero hours contracts and have people to feed.
  • Some people just love food full of sugar or salt because it gives them great comfort!

At times most of these things apply to most of us. During the lockdown Erica and I have had a takeaway every week partly as a little treat and partly to help keep local businesses going. Any politician who eats healthily at elections is not working hard enough! The chips and the biscuits come out and the fruit is too often neglected. But occasional treats don’t really matter – Erica’s doughnuts are to die for! It is regularly eating foods that are high in salt, sugar and saturated fats that is the problem.

There are those who say that people should be able to make their own choices in life. That’s true providing they do know the consequences of those actions and if they want to change their life styles can be helped to do so. Very few people deliberately choose to follow a lifestyle that will kill them early. We used to say exactly the same, as a society, about smoking. Look how few people now die from lung cancer and associated illnesses.

Some people said the same 30 years ago when seat belts became compulsory in cars. Now we all automatically put our seat belt on and a huge and quantifiable amount of misery has been saved.

 As a Liberal Democrat I believe that we need to develop a whole systems approach to obesity which recognises it is a complex and dynamic problem with long-term implications. To support action on reducing obesity, local authorities and their departments, such as social care, should utilise systems thinking. A collaborative whole systems approach is more likely to succeed than single, separate interventions.

A local whole systems approach responds to complexity through an ongoing, dynamic and flexible way of working. It enables local stakeholders, including communities, to come together, share an understanding of the reality of the challenge, consider how the local system is operating and where there are the greatest opportunities for change. Integrating a WSA into the council has many benefits. It:

  • Supports the council’s key priorities – tackling obesity can improve workforce health, contribute to a stronger local economy, and reduce social care costs.
  • Develops a coordinated set of approaches – recognises that tackling a single cause of obesity in isolation is less effective than a coordinated range of activities over the short, medium and long term.
  • Ensures partners across the system work together – moving from silo working in departments to an approach engaging a wider range of stakeholders, focused around agreed goals.
  • Maximises all the assets in the local system, including community resources – bringing in valuable insights and creating additional resource.
  • Reflects the local leadership role of local authorities – working with and through an extensive range of stakeholders, including communities.
  • Develops transferable workforce skills and capacity, relating to system thinking – relevant to many different complex issues.

Together we can fight the scourge of obesity. We can help people have healthier and longer lives. We can save cash in the NHS by moving to the prevention of conditions that otherwise have to be treated. We can encourage local food chains which help local retailers and producers.

It should not have taken the apparent near death of our Prime Minister to bring about a  wider understanding of this problem. But it did so let’s cease the moment and create that joint working to support people away from obesity and into good health.

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Imagine our Shopping areas with no shops!

We are hoping to bring this superb bronze of John Lennon, pictured here with Laura Lian its creator, to Penny Lane/Allerton Road in August or perhaps permanently

The next few months are going to be tough for our business people and they will need all the help that we can give them to stay afloat and hopefully thrive.  Imagine our area if most of the shops on Allerton Road, Rose Lane and Penny Lane, Woolton Village, Woolton Road and the Childwall Triangle closed because of lack of local support. The heart would be ripped out of our community.

In the past two months in Childwall, Allerton& Hunts Cross, Woolton and Liverpool 18 Lib Dem councillors have been talking to two sets of people.

  1. The business community to ask what help they require. The support we want to give is not just for the hospitality sector but for all businesses who provide a wide range of services to local people, employing local people and spending their profits locally often using other local businesses.
  2. The residential community to find out what services they require and what they are prepared to accept in terms of changes to their High Streets.

Local residents have made clear that they want to use independent businesses more, want a wider range of facilities and to be able to cycle and walk to the facilities.

The Government and the Council have been very receptive to ideas to get all our local businesses going again. The Council is using Government money for its City without walls initiative. Locally, we have been out and about on a number of occasions with council staff to look at where there is wasted space which could be used to help business development without damaging the area for local residents.

Liz and Andrew Makinson and I have been working with the Mayor and Council staff on a programme of activity to help our bars, cafes and restaurants and all businesses reopen but keep their customers safe and socially distancing. In the City Centre that has meant reducing traffic in some areas and extending pavement cafes. These are short term measures but we are also looking at more long-term ones. Huge numbers of people come to Liverpool come to Liverpool because of the Beatles yet near to the most famous Lane in the world there is little to tell them about the relationship between the Beatles and the neighbourhood.

This will include the provision of storey boards and improved signage. It may also include the long-term siting of a bronze statue of John Lennon on Allerton Road near Penny Lane.

We are working with Allerton in Bloom to create a Green corridor because we want our local shopping streets to be a pleasant place for local people and tourists alike to gather.

South Liverpool Times and Liverpool Link will be giving space over to full descriptions of the programmes that we are developing.

Our job as councillors is to deliver changes is to try and mediate not only between residents and traders but also to mediate within these groups. Not every trader wants there to be more pavement cafés for example and not every resident wants their provision to be restricted. This is something that we have to be careful of in our work. Sometimes its only the loudest shouters that get heard so we are going out of our way to ensure that every business and community voice is listened to.

So, residents and businesses need to watch this space to find out what is happening. Events currently planned on Allerton Road, Penny Lane & Rose Lane include:

1st August a Welcome to Allerton in August event covering Allerton Road, Penny Lane and Rose Lane including

A small Farmers Market

Music from a Jazz and Brass band

Lord Mayor Judging a ‘My Liverpool 18’ window display

8/9 August an L18 Business and Craft Fair to the rear of the Mansion House organised by the Reader Organisation. If you want to have a stall or for all details contact Anton Clarke at antonclarke@thereader.org.uk

15th August a Farmers Market with supplementary activities around Allerton Road, Penny Lane and Rose Lane

29th  August  A Beatles themed event at the Penny Lane Development Trust. For further details and to book a stall contact Julie Gornell at  julie@pldt.org.uk

Please note that all activities listed are correct at time of going to press but may be changed by legal requirements and safety and social distancing. Please watch local social media especially the ‘My Liverpool 18’ Facebook page for updates or contact your local councillors

We believe that action needs to be taken rapidly on all our High Streets to assist our local businesses. In Liverpool action is being considered in Childwall, Woolton, Aigburth Road and County Road as well as our own area. But this must not just be about short-term measures and pavement cafes. Society as a whole needs to think carefully about the future of our High Streets when the move to on-line buying has so accelerated.

Church Ward Councillors: Andrew Makinson, Andrew.makinson@liverpool.gov.uk 07939 220336, Liz Makinson, liz.makinson@liverpool.gov.uk 07939 119402, Richard Kemp Richard.kemp@liverpool.gov.uk  07885 626913 Woolton Ward Councillors: Barbara Mace, Barbara.mace@liverpool.gov.uk  07423 582335, Kris Brown   Kris.brown@liverpool.gov.uk    07742 144107, Malcolm Kelly  Malcolm.kelly@liverpool.gov.uk     07921 044619 Childwall Councillors: Carole Storey  carole.storey@liverpool.gov.uk 07743 943858, Alan Tormey alan.tormey@liverpool.gov.uk 07415 435133 Allerton/Hunts Cross Councillor Mirna Juarez,  Mirna.Juarez@liverpool.gov.uk    07954 434476

Warning to Under 35s

Public Health Officials are warning of a tick up in cases of coronavirus in S Liverpool in recent weeks. The NHS has had mobile testing stations out and are closely monitoring new cases.

It appears that young people generally are going out more (an who can blame them for that!) but are assuming that they are safe and so ignoring social distancing and other precautions.

Young people are being hospitalised in increasing numbers. Young people might recover very quickly from the virus or not even notice it but the virus might have damaged their immune systems or have caused changes to their brains, bronchial systems, liver, kidneys and heart.

WE MUST NOT TAKE THE CORONAVIRUS FOR GRANTED. IT HAS NOT DISAPPEARED. IT IS LIKELY TO SURGE IN THE WINTER. YOUNG PEOPLE CAN DIE AS WELL!

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Barmy Boris won’t tell us “when to go back to work”

People no longer want packed and frustrating commutes to work. they want a new normal which combines office and home working in a way that is beneficial for both employer and employee

It would appear that Barmy Boris Johnson, our much lamented Prime Minister, believes that a lot of us have been skiving. He’s instructed us to go back to work in September to get the wheels of industry and commerce moving again.

We’ll I’ve got news for Barmy Boris the decisions of when we ‘go back to work’, will not be taken by him or any Government. It will be taken by responsible employers and their employees when they are ready. In a further news burst for him many won’t be going back at all either because they haven’t got a job to go back to or because they are seeking a new normal for their working environment.

What an insult Johnson’s words are for the diligent and conscientious employers who have worked hard to keep their staff in gainful employment from home. What a slap in the face for millions of people who have swiftly adapted to a new way of working from home. Many of these people would like to carry on working from home for at least some of the time.

I think that the new normal will be the rapid acceptance of new ways of working which we have been moving towards for two decades but which have been rapidly accelerated in the first two months of the lockdown.

I suspect that most people are not too bothered about the working conditions when they get to work. A good employer will have worked with Unions and other staff reps to ensure that those conditions are safe. It’s how they get there that will create the health problems. Travel on a London tube or most Liverpool busses between 7.00 a.m. in the morning at 9.00 a.m. and you won’t be one metre or two from someone else’s’ exhalation but about 1 foot. There is no way that a packed rush hour form of transport can ever be made safe.

Just as importantly in the long-term it can never be made a pleasant experience either. For too many people all over the country is a squalid inconvenient part of their life which can leave them exhausted before they even start work.

To take an example of a Company that I am associated with in the City of London, CCLA. Within 10 days at the start of the lockdown it got 130+ staff equipped and comfortably working from home. Most of our staff like to work from home but are missing the office. So CCLA is giving them the best of both worlds. 3 days in the office and two working from home. Offices are still needed for both business and companionship reasons but not on every day of the week.

This change is not being imposed on staff but worked out with them. The Company benefits from reduced costs, we won’t be moving to the bigger accommodation previously required by an expanding business, and improved effectiveness of contented staff. The staff will save money on fares and lunch costs and up to 2.5 hours travel per day. What’s not to like?

The fact is that the Government is only guiding us into decisions but we are, for the most part, being far more careful than the Government.

Most people went into lockdown a good week before the Government mandated it. They say we can stop shielding in a couple of weeks but most people I know will be far more careful about who they will let into their homes and where they go out for leisure and pleasure. Booze for Britain Johnson urged but onl9 9% of the population went out on the first post lockdown weekend in England.

The fact is that 95% of us are being careful with problems caused by 5% of dismiss the virus a s a hoax or feel that the virus will not hurt them.

The fact is that many of us don’t want to go back to normal. We want to go forward to a new normal. Yes, we do want to spend less time on disgusting buses and trains or in traffic jams in peak hours. We do want to see more of our kids growing up. We do want to live in an atmosphere that isn’t killing us or our planet through pollution.

That needs changes in policy. Get this right and we can spend less money on expensive public and private sector transport infrastructure. Get this right and we will spend less on health problems caused by pollution and stress. Get this right and we will increase the sense of wellbeing in our communities which is massively behind that in major European Countries.

Whether it is Liverpool Council charging ahead with pre-Covid shovel ready schemes without testing their post-Covid validity or Barmy Boris urging us to drink our way to economic success and return to normal by Christmas there are signs that policy makers are not listening to the new reality.

There will be huge changes in work patterns and cultures in the next two or three years. Our job as policy and decision makers is to mitigate the deleterious effects on those who will lose by these changes and bring full support to those who are riding the tsunami of change to ensure we maximise the good things that we have seen in this Covid period.

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Working Together to deal with Liverpool’s Financial Crisis

Our Parks, libraries and community centres will all be under threat unless we can persuade the Government to give us more money to match what they said about providing us with Covid cash

Over the past few weeks, I have come under criticism from a few people because I am not hard enough in opposing Mayor Anderson. One even went so far as to say that it was because Joe Anderson was my best friend! Neither of us would take it that far but as the Mayor of Liverpool and the Leader of the Opposition we have to work together when we can and oppose each other only when we have to. That’s grown up politics. It’s more difficult in some ways than just slagging each other off but it’s not so useful for the people of Liverpool as no Party has all the right ideas or policies. I personally believe that this is what the people of our City want in this time of crisis for our City.

Lib Dems have been very active lately in exposing some of the flaws of the Council:

Our Education Spokesperson, Liz Makinson has only this week drawn attention to the appalling state of our education service – the worst of any core City.

Cllr Carole Storey has introduced wide-ranging suggestions for a new tourism policy.

All 10 Lib Dem Councillors have requisitioned a special meeting of the Council.

I have continued to be highly critical of the way that the council has and is treating property development in the City which has, far more than in the rest of the UK, left half completed or dangerous buildings throughout the City and left investors with anything up to a £billion which has disappeared.

So, there are clear areas where we disagree with Joe Anderson and the Labour Group. However, all that palls into insignificance when compared with the budget position which the Council is now in for the past two years and the severity of which has been added to by the effects of the coronavirus.

In March the Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick told all councils to do what it takes to deal with the emerging crisis caused by the Coronavirus Covid-19. All councils including Liverpool took the man at his word. In my discussion with the Mayor we agreed that this gave us the green light to do what it takes to keep the people of Liverpool safe. The Council spent what needed to be spent and I supported. Mistakes were made because everything was being done in a hurry but who knows a Lib Dem administration might have made the same or different mistakes as it grappled with these unprecedented circumstances.

The Government then started to shift some money towards us amounting to approximately £32.5 million of core funding. To this was added other sums as we became part of the national initiative on things like ‘track and trace. It did this in two tranches with the 2nd tranche being a  much smaller sharing of the national pot.

This third, and possibly, final tranche of the money from the Government to help Liverpool deal with funding problems due to the coronavirus is a travesty. This amount is only about 10% of what Liverpool needs now as it battles with increased expenditure to look after our most needy citizens and a loss in income caused by the lockdown.

The problem is that, with the blessing of the Government we have spent about £60 million and have lost a huge amount of income from things like planning applications, parking fees, licences and other fees. Rent income will be down as will council tax and business rate income. The current estimate is that even allowing for this we are about £50 million adrift.

Unless more money comes the Council will be unable to avoid cuts in services later this year which will impact on all our none-statutory but vital services like parks, libraries and sports centres. We will have to cut the things that our people most need to keep them mentally and physically healthy as we move through and out of lockdown.

The idea that we might be able to spread our losses for this year also through the next two financial years will just spread the pain and damage our vital services. Normally we cannot carry for ward a loss so the idea that we might be able to split this year’s  losses in three and only find a third of them this year is attractive to Government BUT it totally ignores the fact that things will not be back to normal next year or the year after. So, one third of this year’s shortfall will need to be added to further shortfalls in the next two years.

Hard decisions will need to be made at the planned September Council meeting. So Lib Dems have had to consider what we should do. We can either make cheap political points and move an amendment which might get us good headlines and stuff for our leaflets or we can work with the Administration, make suggestions publicly and privately to try and improve what Labour are suggest and be positive.

That has the added advantage that we can prevent a united front to the Government when the Government asks for the money it so desperately needs. This course of action is the one that the Lib Dem group reaffirmed at a recent group meeting. We will continue to expose what we think are deficiencies in Labour’s approach but will continue to support most of the actions of the Mayor in this time of crisis for the Council and our City.

We hope that all reasonable people within the City will agree that this is the right approach at the present time. Normal service will be resumed with more robust political debate when we reach the delayed local elections next May.

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Schools need urgent rethink to stop declining standards – ‘put wellbeing first’

“Could do better” is definitely the comment on Liverpool Council’s end of term report as figures from the House of Lords reveal that Liverpool is badly lagging behind other major cities on exam results.

Liverpool’s GCSE scores have been in decline over the past 5 years, with the percentage gaining 5 or more GCSEs, including English and Maths dropping from 48.6% in 2014/15 to 36.1% in 2018/19.  Of the core cities, Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield, Birmingham, Newcastle and London are all outperforming Liverpool. 

These are extracted from figures obtained from the House of Lords Library at the request of local Lib Dem Peer, Lord Storey.

In responding to the figures, Liverpool Lib Dem’s Children’s Spokesperson, Cllr Liz Makinson says,

2These shocking figures come at a time when the mental health of schoolchildren is in crisis and it begs the question of whether we are failing our young people. 

Although there is fantastic work going on in the city with hard working and dedicated teachers, it is time for a rethink of the highly pressurised environment in schools and to put student and teacher well- being at the heart of decision making.  A constant round of top down micromanagement with book looks, learning walks, and the abandonment of a cooperative approach to teaching and learning has created a toxic environment in many schools.   

At the same time, giving reduced time and emphasis to pastoral care and personal development lessons in many schools has given students fewer tools and less resilience with which to meet the challenges they face, both academic and personal. 

It is time for a survey of teachers in the city to find out where the issues are and then look at positive ways to not only improve the academic performance but recognise that well- being is at the heart of successful schools”.  

My view is that it is all very well having a grandiose Liverpool Recovery Plan but if we are not educating our young people to a high enough standard the jobs created will go to outsiders often coming in from far afield places in the Greater Manchester area.

This is a real educational crisis and giving our children a strong start in life must be the Council’s priority.

Table 1. GCSE results by city percentage of pupils achieving grades above a threshold), 2014/15 to 2018/19 

      
  2014/15   %  5+ A*-C including English and Maths2015/16 %  A*-C in English and Maths2016/17 %  grade 5 or above English and Maths2017/18%  grade 5 or above English and Maths2018/19 %  grade 5 or above English and Maths
Manchester47.555.334.935.635.5
Leeds55.561.439.340.941.6
Liverpool48.656.637.335.936.1
Nottingham42.450.43132.832.7
Bristol5459.5414138.6
Sheffield5461.839.14038.8
Birmingham54.359.940.240.142.5
Newcastle55.761.735.440.338.7
London60.966.448.248.749
Sorry I can’t get the graphics right. Just more the heading along one space!!

Table 2. A level results by city (average point score per entry), 2014/15 to 2018/19

2014/152015/162016/172017/182018/19
Manchester212.531.2131.4531.8132.69
Leeds206.128.1429.9231.1631.77
Liverpool20728.1329.4830.1230.6
Nottingham203.327.929.1730.3730.71
Bristol210.330.1830.9331.5732.69
Sheffield211.730.830.6932.5332.85
Birmingham212.929.7430.431.6232.37
Newcastle207.428.1229.230.5532.82
London213.130.4631.4332.2232.75

(Source: Department for Education, ‘Statistics: 16 to 19 attainment’ [Local authority data tables for each year], 29 April 2020)

The APS figures for 2014/15 are not directly comparable as a new grade score system was introduced from 2015/16:

A new point score system has been used in both the 2016 performance tables and this SFR [statistical first release]. The old system used a scale of 150–300 for A levels, where a grade A* was given 300 points and a grade E was equal to 150 points. The new system uses a simpler scale of 10–60 points for A levels, where a grade A* is given 60 points and a grade E is given 10 points.

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Under 35? Don’t believe that the Coronavirus can’t hurt you.

Young people can go out and have a good time but they need to follow social distancing rules and behave carefully. The Covid-19 might be less likely to kill them but it may leave them with life affecting conditions

Yesterday we received news of an alarming uptick in Covid-19 cases in South Liverpool. It wasn’t amongst the older population who were the key victims of the virus for the first 4 months and the pre lockdown and lockdown periods. It was in under-35s who previously have been a small percentage of those infected. The areas worst affected were Woolton, Childwall, Allerton, Hunts Cross, Halewood and Wavertree.

The worst is probably still to come. Three weeks and two weeks ago Woolton Village had to be closed by the police because of the number of young people drinking without social distancing in the open. Two weeks ago, we had the disgraceful scenes at the Pier Head and Anfield which have rightly been condemned by LFC. Most of the participants in these events were young people.

As I went around S Liverpool last weekend, I saw that there was a higher proportion of under 35s in the bars and restaurants than any other age group. I spoke to several of them about why. Clearly, like all of us they are fed up with being in and not going out meeting mates and enjoying themselves. The difference between them and older people, however, was the idea that the virus could not affect them. If they got it they would, at worst, have a flu like cold and then they would be immune.

This is a pattern we can see all over the world in the post lockdown periods. From the USA to Sweden, from Korea to Canada it is the under 35s who are out more and taking more risk and gradually suffering more.

It is true that less young people have died from the virus but some have. However, there are three considerations that they ned to think about:

  1. They may not even notice the symptoms of the virus but they could be going to home or work places and infect those people who are older or vulnerable who would suffer severe immediate effects including death.
  2. The virus may seem to get sorted out quickly but there are increasing signs that even people with mild initial conditions may find themselves with long term problems with their bronchial systems, heart, liver, kidneys and brains. Coronavirus effects might give them a big kicking in years to come.
  3. We have no idea how long immunity will last. Some studies suggest that it will not last long and will not, in any event, provide protections as the Coronavirus continues to mutate. Remember that people get flu injections every year because flu mutates through the course of its own life cycle and reproduction.

The uptick of infections is not yet alarming merely worrying and we must all do our bit to keep the virus under control.

  • If you are under 35 just be careful about how you try and resume normal life with your mates. The bars will still be there next year. You have a lifetime of pleasure ahead of you and not all pleasures involved drink and food. There are so many things that you can without either and have a good time.
  • If you are a parent or friend of under 35s tactfully but persuasively try and point out the continuing danger.
  • If you run a bar or restaurant, redouble your efforts to keep social distancing intact. I was delighted last week when I walked around L18 to see how well the premises were being run and the behaviour of punters was exemplary. But last week it was poor weather and tomorrow it promises to be hot.

The Council and NHS have arranged for the following testing sites to be established:

Mobile testing centres will be in Woolton: (Saturday 11 July and Sunday 12 July) and Wavertree: (Monday 13 July to Wednesday 15 July)  carrying out swab tests on people with symptoms who have pre-booked an appointment via the NHS website.

If you feel that you have symptoms, no matter how slight, please go and get tested.

We can get through this but if we don’t the consequences will be high. As we have seen in Leicester the Government have the power to close places and businesses down.

The last thing I want to see happen is for South Liverpool and its bars, shops and other businesses made to go back into a local lockdown. We are not in that position yet but if things get worse that is what the Government will do.

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