Liverpool Labour lacks long term vision and direction

LectureJinjaIn Jinja, at a meeting of Cities Alliance,  I argued that politicians needed to take a long-term approach to the development of their Cities

As readers of this blog know I have been out of Liverpool for the past 13 days. These days have led me to 4 overnight plane journeys of 20hours + and a number of hairy moments particularly on the main road between Kampala and Jinja.

The two events that I have been at, however, have for me been absolutely exhilarating. Let me quickly point out that they have not cost Liverpool or UK taxpayers a penny! There has been a great reception for the work of World Merit, the global charity based in Liverpool which I now chair. World Merit has been well received by Councils and their local government associations around the world. I have no doubt that we will soon conclude a number of activities with councils especially those in Africa where we are hoping to make a major contribution to Afro-Cities, a huge programme for pan-African cities which will take place in Marrakesh next December.

If you haven’t heard about World Merit before you can find out more at If you are young sign up to our activities. If you are not let young people know about us!!

I have also, of course, been able to talk about Liverpool to many people. In Uganda in particular I was able to address organisations like the UN and talk about the successes and the continuing challenges of our City. I have been working on some issues with the Local Government Minister for Ghana and he has asked me to make a proposal to bring some Ghanaian Mayors to our City. It will be a privilege to do so especially because of the strong links between our City and many parts of West Africa including having a strong Ghanaian population the City.

I have learned a lot from some of the world’s greatest experts in long-term thinking about the role of local government in shaping the destinies of the citizens that we represent. There were four things that really stand out. Both the United Cities and Local Government World Council in Hangzhou and the Cities Alliance General assembly in Jinja made clear that there were key elements that were a prerequisite for the long-term development of our areas:

Firstly, we need to decentralise decision making. There can be no doubt that every council suffers from central governments that try to apply national solutions to local programmes. AND there can be no doubt that Capitals get far more than their fair share of resources. We can see that acutely in the UK where Crossrail 2 in London and the South East will take precedence over our equivalent of Crossrail 1 – the west Coast/East Coast link. There is not a single example of Westminster Government spending which does not place more than its fair share of money in to spending in to London and the South-East.

This expenditure is doomed to failure. More money attracts more people which need more money. Travelling times in capitals globally are becoming unsustainable and bloated asset values, especially for housing and land are consuming much of the GDP of entire nations.

Secondly, we need to improve the quality of the decision makers both politicians and officers. This can be seen acutely in Liverpool. The Region remains in a second-rate position to Manchester because of the low standards of our politicians and the poor quality of many of our technicians. Politically the potential of the City Region Mayoralty is held back by the continued squabbling and back biting of the 6 male leaders on the Combined Authority. They conspired to create a weak settlement for the City Region and continue to hold it back. The Women’s Leadership Group is right – we badly need more women in leadership positions.

We can see in Liverpool the need to either boost our officer cadre or bring in to the system hired help from time to time. Our officers have allowed us to blunder into mess ups such as St john’s Market; the sale of land to developers with a mixed track record; and the ill-fated ‘Hope & Glory Festival. We do have some star performers. Becky Hellard our Director of Resources has kept us on a clear financial path despite the heavy problems which we have faced. Others in Liverpool and elsewhere are not up to her high standards.

Thirdly, we need to think far more long-term than we do. The problems of Liverpool are not new ones. Liverpool started to decline shortly after World War One a decline which accelerated after World War 2. What is the response of our Labour politicians? Well we can all recall that in 2016 Mayor Anderson didn’t even produce a manifesto. He has given us not a single clue about our City’s future over the 20 years’ time scale we need to be planning for.

This incompetence can best be seen in our abject failure to produce a Local Development Framework. This long-term structure plan should have been completed years ago. Instead it has drifted so badly that the Government are now threatening to intervene to ensure that one is produced. Perhaps this is deliberate as our failure to have a development framework means that developers can wipe the floor with us and get what they want and not what the people of the City need.

Lastly, we need to be far better at involving the people of our communities in developing both short-term and long-term planning. This is not Labour’s City or the Lib Dems’ City. The political parties that control the council at any one time are only trustees for the City. The City itself belongs to the people. Consultation with people is dire. Labour thinks that consultation is about asking people what they think of decisions that have already been made. This is why the people are angry about a whole range of issues including the sale of green spaces and now the spending of £93,000 a year on a new Pravda for the Council parroting Labour actions because the Labour Party cannot get its own message out.

These things are not new ideas. They were all ideas that the Lib Dems pursued when we controlled the Council and which we will do when we control the Council again. The short-termism of Liverpool’s Labour leadership is holding our City back. But people can begin to fight back next May when one third of the Council up for re-election. Our aim is to create a strong bloc of Lib Dem councillors who can hold this dreadful Labour administration to account. All the signs are that the people of Liverpool will support us in this intent.

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No sense of responsibility on Northern Rail or Network Rail



The terminal at Nairobi is far better than the hell hole of  termkinal one at Manchester Airport

Last Monday I had the first of my wet palm events (there were many more!) The train from Liverpool to Manchester Airport broke down. These things happen and to give them their credit a relief train came in about an hour to move it forward.

But in many ways the service provided to passengers on the train was abysmal. As it was a train to the airport you might well expect it to have people on it who did not understand much English. You would be right. I recognised at least 4 languages in the carriage that I was in. There was not one attempt to try and convey the problems in any language other than English. We really make people feel at home.

The next problem was that the train was terminated not at Manchester Piccadilly where there lots of trains to Manchester Airport but at Manchester Victoria where there are none. Did the guard on the train explain what to do and how to get to Piccadilly for the Airport trains? NO. Was there anyone at the station to advise people what to do and get them to Piccadilly for the Airport Trains? NO. In fact the lack of customer care was an absolute disgrace!

I was thinking of that last night when the snow falls in Amsterdam led me to get the train to Brussels in time for the first Eurostar train this morning. Every member of staff that I approached at the Schiphol train station could talk to me in English. The conductor of the train from Amsterdam Central to Schiphol could clearly speak 3 languages. They like foreign visitors and work to keep their affection.

How many of the staff at Liverpool Lime Street, a major entry for foreign visitors to our city, can speak a foreign language? How many conductors on the trains between London; Manchester Airport and Liverpool can speak a foreign language? I don’t know but I would guess precious few. We rely on our visitors to speak our language. What arrogance and disrespect we show. I know that conductors on our local railways want better pay. Perhaps we could train and support them better so that they can be better ambassadors for our city!

But that leaves me to much wider considerations. Firstly, about language. We are very lucky that the preferred second language for most travellers is American – a language with strong similarities to our own. But if we want to attract more people to our City and Country we need to show more respect

In this regard where are the easy to understand, multi-language signs in the stations or our City Centre? How many of our taxi drivers can speak one of the main international languages of French, Spanish or increasingly Mandarin Chinese. How rarely do we try and learn even a few basics of a language when we go to another Country?  We rely on speaking s l o w l y and LOUDLY. People are absurdly pleased when we even make a mangled attempt to speak their language. If we are to make our way int eh world we must do more to understand both languages and cultures of other people.

The train from Amsterdam to Brussels cost about £35 with no pre-booking or discount. My journey to Liverpool this morning took a similar time cost £94 with a similar discount. Admittedly the inter city service I was on was nowhere the quality of trains that the Virgin Pendolino gives but there is a  huge price difference. The bone shakers of Northern Rail that currently greet our international guests hardly provide a good impression for our Country.

I started this blog on a train and returned to it once again at Manchester Airport. This Airport is an absolute disgrace. Queuing for flights in a noisy squalid environment is not conducive for a calm state of mind – especially for people who do not travel regularly. People shouting at you enforcing entirely different riles. My bag last Monday with KLM was acceptable but the same bag with basically the same stuff was not acceptable to Etihad.

The security queues led you to a dingy underground room which was nightmare to be in for 20 minutes. Heaven help the staff who wish to work here. There is a glamourous bit of duty free in Terminal One but you then emerge into a squalid waiting area to wait for your flight to be gated.

I find this all very sad. First and last impressions count but this Country basically waves two fingers at our guests. We want their money but treat them very badly. We will be the losers from this process at a time when we need international friends the most.

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Liverpool – A council with no moral compass

Apparently, there are no problems around the failed sites like this one in Norfolk Street according to the Council. They haven’t spoken to local people and businesses.

I put down a series of written questions about our due diligence and partnership finding processes to the Audit & Governance Committee which met yesterday. Although I am far away the results were e-mailed to me and one questions came easily to my mind, “Are they having a laugh?”

According to the replies Liverpool has a strong due diligence process!! Really? In that case why have we entered into arrangements with a number of contractors in a number of fields. The promoter of the “Hope & Glory Festival” with a string of failed events behind him. The developers of a number of property schemes who a quick search on Google would reveal had a large number of questions against their name. In a slightly different way the appointment of an architect to lead the refurbishment of St Johns Market with no experience of markets. And the Council tells me that its processes are sound!

They see nothing wrong in continuing to continue to promote residential property developments despite the fact that the involvement of the Council has led many people to invest in developments where their money is almost certain to be lost. They also have refused a few weeks ago to conduct a full review of the property needs of our City at a time when more and more developments are having difficulty in letting or sales. I’m in the region at the moment and I can tell you that there is concern here at the way people have been led into these investments. The Council does not seem to understand that out here the involvement for a Mayor or Deputy Mayor is a guarantee of completion. That is the way the world works.

The Council thinks that all is well around failed sites. In Norfolk Street businesses are still complaining about the way that the road system is still not working effectively because of street blockages. In the City Centre Development local residents have complained to me about incursions onto the site with people stripping the assets and getting into all sorts of illicit activities.

They don’t think that they should be doing something for the failed investors. The legal action that they have launched and which they look almost certain to lose is not to recover assets for the investors but for the Council. Of course, the Council must try to get its money back but there is so much that they could be doing to seek justice for those who relied on Liverpool’s good name. Of course, we should try and assist those who have lost money by investing in our City

Anderson’s Labour Party are living in another World where nothing ever goes wrong or if it does, “It’s not our fault guv!” When St John’s Market went so badly wrong no politician took responsibility but an officer was suspended. They have not told me how much they have lost on the market refurbishment but I do know and will be revealing that soon. When developments go wrong if was always, “something that could not be foreseen and the Council always acted properly”.

Anderson and Co get away with it because they do not allow internal scrutiny. We have a series of select committees whose job is to receive a string of PowerPoint presentations but which lack the guts to ask difficult questions. Reports, no matter how half baked, are always approved with self-congratulation and a huge amount of crawling to “Iron Man Joe”.

Liverpool Council is corrupt. Not in a legal sense and not in a financial sense. I don’t think anyone is on the make or on the take. No-one is benefiting from the dysfunctional nature of the Council, but we are all losing as a result of its blundering. Labour continue to remind us that we have lost lots of money form the Government. True, but that is no reason to go squandering our remaining cash on quixotic ventures.

Liverpool needs a root and branch change in its political and managerial structures. We are paying a lot of money for a former Chief Executive to do the work that should be being done by our suspended Chief Executive. He is supposed to be reviewing the structure of the Council but in reality, may just be involved in preparing for the Peer Review which the Mayor has recently commissioned. Let’s hope that he is strong enough to cut through the garbage and help us develop strong systems that will enable us to overcome the many internal problems that we have.

In the meantime, we have the Council’s own Pravda up and running. You may have received a copy of City magazine., This magazine was stopped in 2012 and has been reintroduced without any public notice or report to committee. A 32-page paper costs a lot to prepare, print and distribute. That’s the council’s answer to its problems. Pretend that they don’t exist and talk only about the good things. Instead of the Labour paying out its own cash to tell you their version of the truth they are using taxpayers’ cash your cash.

Here are the questions and answers from last night’s meeting. As always, I reproduce them in full and allow you, the people of Liverpool, to come to your own conclusions.

  1. Would you agree that the behaviour of the Council is a major cause for concern and that we need to consider carefully our concept and practice of due diligence in these sites whether we had a controlling interest because of land ownership or by helping to sell them?

The Council has strong due diligence processes in place with regard to land and property transactions, based around knowing the customer in terms of the people we deal with, their background and source of finance. In all cases, any money received from land and property transactions is transferred to the Council from Law Society registered firms of solicitors who have complied with their own statutory Money Laundering procedures in relation to their clients before undertaking a transaction with the Council.

  1. Will you agree to have an outside review of our due diligence practices to check if we have the right experience, competence and attitude ‘in-house’?

As part of the Council’s commitment to excellence and best practice, our due diligence procedures are periodically reviewed across regeneration, finance, legal and audit departments, each bringing current best practice into our procedures.

  1. Would you agree that the council should participate in no more marketing exercises for any residential property in Liverpool until these issues of North Point Global and similar developers have been resolved and internal mechanisms have been strengthened?

We should not delay regeneration and therefore potential growth in the City’s economy. The issue with NPG is being dealt with through legal procedures. Across the city there is circa £1.2 billion of development activity being delivered successfully and £10 billion pipeline of future development. Despite the Councillor’s best efforts, this Council will not put the future of the city at risk for narrow, partisan political gain

  1. Would you agree that the Council has a moral duty to respond to the people in these failed investments and in assisting them in coming together to try and get their money back all or in part?

The Council has already taken immediate and proactive legal action against China Town Development Company Limited, as the developer is not performing nor complying with its contractual obligations. The Council has been clear with regard to our objectives in taking this action, which is to have the development delivered for the existing investors.

  1. Should the council make an immediate review of the failed sites, such as in Norfolk Street, and try to minimise the distortion of roads etc caused by what was supposed to be ‘Work in Progress’.

As with everything the Councillor has suggested, the Council has already acted, swiftly and in keeping with our duty, and has reviewed the Norfolk Street Project. There is no undue distortion of the road network given the alternative routes that are readily available and open to traffic in the area.

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Some thoughts from China (1)


The modern City of Huangzhou in South – Eastern China as seen from my hotel room! It seems to stretch for miles!

I had never heard of Hangzhou until 3 months ago. It’s a relatively small city in China. It only has about 4 million people living here!! As I flew in over it from Shanghai I was struck by how there is to see and how much of that is new. The taxi ride from the airport is about 20 miles. I did not see one old building in that drive which was mostly in a built up urban environment. I saw houses that look like French; English; German and Dutch houses as they try to copy different architectures. I saw block after block of apartments which could have been anywhere in the World and I saw buildings that were unmistakably Chinese. They were all new.

The hotel that I am staying in has 5 tower blocks each with about 250 rooms in. It is, by some measures, a small hotel! The one I stayed in at Haikou 3 years ago had almost 3,000 bedrooms ( and an Executive Chef from Anfield!) Everywhere I go there are staff. This is a hugely luxurious hotel which I would never stay in anywhere else in the world but it is costing less than the rather dismal hotel I stay in during my visits to London. Although the price is a little reduced because of the number of us staying here it would still not be expensive in our areas.

Everyone I meet is so courteous to us and seem to desperately want to please. The staff have an eye for detail which keeps everything in its place and everything tidy. Most of this seems to stem from an earnest attempt to be friendly. I did, however, notice a staff meeting in a little restaurant where I had a coffee yesterday morning at Shanghai Airport. I can’t speak Chinese but I can read body language. There was an incredible authoritarian effort for a place that was clearly running well and at the end of the day was only a snack bar.

There is no depth to the ambition of the Chinese nation. On the plane between Amsterdam and Shanghai I watched a documentary (fortunately subtitled) about how the Chinese entrepreneurs are moving some operations to African Countries like Somalia. The working day seems to start with the same sort of compulsory drill that they use in China. Basic PE performed en masse at the start of the working day. BUT the Chinese owners accept that the African workers will only deliver at 70-80% of the efficiency of their Chinese counterparts.

Even in the airline magazine which I read from cover to cover as my book was in the hold the management was talking about the delivery of the 10-year plan to increase European visitors. This was not specifically an airline plan but a Government plan that the airline was proud to deliver their part in. There was a huge article about the recent Congress of the Communist Party. The airline was proud to talk about this and talk about its relevance to them and their work.

Everywhere I can see a bigger threat to Western business than the cheap labour that has been the competitive advantage of this Country for 5 decades. There is now a huge intellectual effort  particularly in the field of IT and other technologies. They are not copying either legally or illegally other people’s products they are developing their own.

It seems to me that there are a number of lessons here for the UK and for Liverpool in particular.

  1. We have been making great efforts to attract the Chinese to invest in our Country. It is now absolutely clear that with minor exceptions they will not invest in manufacturing. We are too expensive for them. We are not going to work in their way. The UK will never be as productive as they are. They want to invest in infrastructure that will give them a long-term relatively risk-free yield. Is that really what we as a City or we as a nation require? I see dangers here.

Even without the disgraceful way that the Council has been complicit in marketing             dodgy financial deals for private and corporate investors from Hong Kong and the             PRC we need to ask basic questions about what investment is in our long-term                     interests.

  1. We must maintain very friendly links with this Country so that we can share their technological advances. Of course, some of that can best be done by industry but there is also much that can be done by Universities. Liverpool has a huge number of Chinese students. We must look after them properly and ensure that they love our City and our Country. We might need them as friends.
  2. They are one very important Country. When you compare the competence of their leadership with that of Trump’s USA there is no question which Country is the real Leader. Trump is all bluster and waffle. The Chinese leadership is quiet, competent and determined. There is no doubt which Country will come out on top. In fact having seen Trump on television this week I would be embarrassed to be an American.

This may sound like gushing approval for China. No, it is not! There are things here which are very different from ours. They have a culture that has built up over thousands of years which is different from our Country which has also developed a culture over thousands of years.

Last night I was watching the BBC and was listening intently to Paddy Ashdown talking about a recent trip to Hong Kong. Suddenly the screen went blank. I tried to find it again only to find that the BBC was no longer available! I’ve often wanted to turn Paddy Ashdown off our down but never wanted to censor him in what was clearly an unbiased programme which included the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.

I am very proud that Liverpool has the oldest Chinese community in Western Europe and that the Chinese Community are a very important part of business and cultural life in our City. I hope that we will continue to foster strong and appropriate links with the PRC but we need to be careful. China is a dragon – there are dangers if we tweak the dragon’s tail.


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Why I’m putting a smile on Joe Anderson’s face!


In a burst of pre-Christmas goodwill I am hoping that this blog will put a smile on the face of Mayor Anderson!!

After calamity after calamity for the Mayor of Liverpool in recent months I thought it was time I gave him a rare piece of good news! I’m going to be away for the next two weeks! Coming after the St John’s Market fiasco; the intervention by the Government in our planning strategy; splits in the Labour Group; the adverse report on the ‘Hope & Glory’ debacle I thought I should spread a little pre-Christmas cheer!

The Mayor often makes rude comments about my travels in the Council. At the last meeting he called me ‘Air-Miles Kemp’. He is a little out of date – until the beginning of November I hadn’t even been on a plane in 2017. It is true, however, that I have done a lot of miles in the past when I represented the UK on the World body for local Government, UCLG. I have always tried to talk about Liverpool at all of the speeches and talks I have given when I was abroad as I do when I am in this Country. Liverpool has so much to be proud of that I am always delighted to be able to talk our City up in venues globally.

I think it absolutely right that Liverpool councillors should be doing this work. We are, after all, one of the UK’s great cities. I am pleased that Cllr Nick Small represents the UK on the Commonwealth Local Government Form and was recently in Malta. I am sure that gave him the chance to talk to about a thousand people about our city. Just like my visits the taxpayers of Liverpool have not paid a penny towards our travels so basically it is free publicity.

I am making two different journeys in the next 14 days and before anyone mentions the words ‘Jolly’ or ‘Holiday I just point out that in those 14 days I will be making 4 overnight 20 Hour plus journeys. I am not being paid for the visits although my expenses will be paid.

For my first visit I will be going to Hangzhou in China for the World Council of UCLG. I will be doing a little local government work there but I am principally going on behalf of World Merit a charity which I now chair. You can find out more about this organisation at Basically, it is an organisation which gets young people (largely between the ages of 18 and 25) involved in actions in their own community which relate to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

I am proud that a global charity supporting more than 120,000 young people globally should be based in our city. Our aim is to link our young people with their local Mayors. We have already begun this work in Africa and now are looking to work with Mayors in the rest of the World.

17 hours after I arrive back in the UK I will be leaving for Uganda where I will be talking to the annual conference of Cities Alliance, a UN organisation which helps urban development in sub-Saharan Africa. The conference is about urban development for none-Capital cities. Some cities in Africa are expanding at the rate of more than 5% a year. Some are doing this successfully others not quite so successfully. The invitation came as a result of the visit I arranged for about 300 Mayors and officials to Liverpool n 2014.

They want to know more about how we planned the reconstruction of the image, physical structures and employment in Liverpool from a very weak base in 1998 and how that task continues. This will link both my political and professional knowledge as for more than 25 years I was an economic regeneration adviser in this Country and others. I hope to bring another group of leading African Mayors to Liverpool soon as part of some ongoing work from his conference.

As this Country recklessly retreats from Europe it is more than ever important to look for friends elsewhere. Africa could be a major economic powerhouse in this century if it gets its act together. Already many people are under-estimating the importance of this Continent and I hope that anything that I do will strengthen our links with Countries based not on a colonial past but as partnership of equals.

Church Ward will not be neglected. My case work is up to date and I will keep in regular contact through e-mails etc. Andrew and Liz Makinson will be, as ever, hard at work in our ward and will, I am sure, manage the Advice Centre without me. This will take place on Saturday 16th December at the farmers market at the junction of Garthdale and Allerton Roads between and 1 pm.

And then when I get back I’ll only have about 5,000 Christmas cards to deliver before the big day. So, if you have any queries please e-mail me at

PS Don’t tell Joe but through the wonders of electronic communications I will still be keeping an eye on him from wherever I will be!

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The Future of Social Care – Guest Blog by Rt Hon. Norman Lamb


Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP who made a brilliant speech as part of a series of debates initiated by Mr Speaker Bercow

Regular readers of my blog will note that this blog is both longer and cleverer than my normal ones. That’s because its not mine. It’s a speech made my Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP at a ‘Speaker’s Lecture’ last Monday 27th November. It’s a very good speech which was very well received by members of all Parties and none who heard it. I have reproduced it in full with Norman’s permission.

Mr. Speaker,

I suspect that many people have only a vague idea of what social care is – seems a rather old-fashioned term. Part of the problem in terms of the attention it gets from Governments of all persuasions is that is usually compared to the NHS which is ‘the nearest thing the English have to a religion’ as Nigel Lawson famously said.

Go to Wikipedia and you will find that social care is defined as “the provision of social work, personal care, protection or social support services to children or adults in need or at risk, or adults with care needs arising from illness, disability, old age or poverty.”

This comes across very much as the provision of a service to people. My preference is to think about what we are seeking to achieve. What should our objective be for people?

For me, this must surely be about how we enable people to lead a good life, a happy, fulfilling life – a life they want to lead – as far as that is achievable. That involves people having power and control – rather than having things done to them.

And then, at the end of life, the really important priority is how people can have a dignified death. This is denied to many people. As we have achieved enormous advances in keeping people alive with medical technologies and therapeutics, that has become the purpose – to keep you alive -sometimes completely irrespective of the dismal quality of that life. But just keeping you alive is not what I want and, I suspect, it’s not what most of us want.

For those who haven’t read it, I would encourage anyone to read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. Gawande is a surgeon living and working in the U.S. but his book has universal relevance. It’s full of humanity.

It presents a stark critique of where we have gone wrong, too often focused on minimising risk, restricting the lives of vulnerable people, often institutionalising them. He makes the point that we permit children to take more risks than we do a person approaching the end of their life and receiving care. Their choices, even when it might shorten life, should surely be the most cherished and respected. ‘We have exalted longevity over what makes life worth living’, says Gavin Francis, a GP and writer, in a review of Gawande’s book.

So that is the context to how, I believe, we should consider the future of social care. I will set out some thoughts on the way forward. But we first need to understand how Governments of all complexions have addressed this area of policy and what we can learn from it. We also need to understand the scale of the problem.

The history of the last 20 years suggests a very clear public policy failure.

It started well. Coming into office in 1997, the first Blair Government delivered on a key manifesto commitment by establishing a Royal Commission on the funding of long-term care.

What’s remarkable is that the range of failings the Commission identified in its report hold just as true today as they did almost twenty years ago. I quote directly:

“It is too complex and provides no clarity as to what people can expect. It too often causes people to move into residential care when this might not be the best outcome. Help is available to the poorest but the system leads to the impoverishment of people with moderate assets before they get any help.

These words could have been written yesterday.

For all its merits, the process of a Royal Commission ultimately failed to resolve these fundamental issues. Its chief recommendation of free personal care on the basis of need divided the Commission, and was rejected by the Labour Government on the grounds that it would carry “a very substantial cost” and “would not necessarily improve services”.

Six years later, a government green paper once again declared that “it is not acceptable to continue to deliver social care in the way we do today”. Further consultations were published during the Labour years – more generous means-testing, a ‘National Care Service’, a two-year cap on paying for social care from 2014, and care free-at-the-point-of-use at some point after 2015.

Whilst Labour had made no progress on reforming the funding of social care, other changes had started to happen. They started the roll-out of personal budgets, a concept which had its origins in the United States with disabled people demanding more control over their care. The right to a personal budget was later enshrined in legislation by the Care Act, 2014.

With the arrival of the Coalition came a new initiative. The Dilnot Commission was established to consider a partnership model for funding social care – between individuals and the state.

The Dilnot report concluded that “the current system is confusing, unfair and unsustainable”. It highlighted that it leaves people “unable to plan ahead to meet their future care needs”. Echoing one of the conclusions of the Royal Commission, it said that “a major problem is that people are unable to protect themselves against very high care costs” in old age.

Dilnot central recommendations: a £35,000 lifetime cap for over 65s and lower caps for those in younger age groups, along with a more generous means-test.

The Care Act, which I took through Parliament, enshrined the three principles of choice, independence and prevention. Promoting the individual’s wellbeing must be at the heart of all decision making by the local authority. And that, for the first time, includes the wellbeing of the carer.

The cap on care costs proposed by Dilnot led to long negotiations within the Coalition. Eventually, the Liberal Democrats negotiated to include a cap within the Care Act. It was initially set as a lifetime cap of £72,000 for everyone over the age of 25 with a more generous means test for support for those who hadn’t reached the cap – set at £118,000. This meant that more people could get a contribution towards the cost of care. All this was due to be implemented in April, 2016.

Within weeks of the election of a Conservative Government in May, 2015, it was announced that the cap would be postponed until 2020 – which left me really furious. So, you can imagine my feelings when we learned last week that the 2020 date has also been abandoned.

Then we had the Conservative General Election Manifesto. The cap had been abandoned and, instead, they proposed to protect just the last £100,000 of assets. Anyone with assets above this level would pay the full cost of care whether in a care home or care at home. There was to be no pooling of risk. This was immediately dubbed a ‘dementia tax’. It led to an embarrassing retreat just a few days later.

The Budget last week failed to even mention social care. Now, the process will start all over again with a Green Paper next summer.

So how bad are things? And how significant is the challenge which lies ahead?

First, it’s worth reflecting on the extraordinary demographic change which has been happening since the late 18th century but which is gathering pace.

In 1982, there were about 600,000 people over the age of 85. By 2007 it had more than doubled to 1.3 million and by 2032 it will be 3.1 million.

In just a 10-year period, the number of people living with 3 or more chronic conditions, will increase by 50%.

And over half of people over the age of 75 live alone. We know that social isolation damages your health and your wellbeing. Loneliness is said to be more damaging to your health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

And, whereas in the past, your family would all live on the same street or nearby, now, inadvertently, we have left people stranded as extended families have been dispersed far and wide.

It’s also worth noting that healthy life expectancy at the age of 65 varies enormously depending on where you live and on levels of deprivation. In Tower Hamlets, it is only 6 1/2 years of healthy life to look forward to at the age of 65. Yet just 16 miles away in Richmond it is about 14 1/2 years. Reducing these inequalities must be a clear objective of public policy.

And it’s not just that the numbers of people who need care and support is growing so rapidly. Our ability to fund services to support them also gets more and more difficult, irrespective of where you are on the political spectrum. This is because the ratio of people of working age – who work and pay taxes – compared to people in retirement, is changing. For every 1,000 people of working age, the number in retirement is projected to rise from 305 in mid-2016 to 370 by mid-2041.

By 2065, 26% of the population will be over the age of 65 years old, compared to 18% today. That’s a dramatic shift.

There’s also another significant and growing pressure. Around 300,000 working-age adults rely on the social care system.  And for the first time, financial pressures due to the increasing care needs of younger adults with disabilities or mental health problems are greater than those due to supporting older people. Quality of life, control and wellbeing is just as important for all these people. There should be no second-class citizens.

As these trends have been growing, the failure to reform the funding system has been exacerbated by reductions in funding. Social care has always lost out to the NHS even when the money was flowing in the last decade. It rose quite steeply from 2000 to 2005 but then grew at a much slower rate than the NHS.

Since 2010, first under the Coalition, and then under the Conservatives from 2015, cuts to local authority funding has resulted in social care being cut by 8% from a peak in 2009/10 despite demand rising rapidly. Councils are looking to make additional savings of £824 million this year alone. Cutting the preventive end of the spectrum so much hardly seems rational.

This has put the sector under immense pressure – and the impact on those in need of care, some of the most vulnerable in our society, is stark and distressing.

Analysis by Age UK suggests that there are now 1.2 million older people in England, over the age of 65, who do not get the social care they need – no help with eating, dressing and bathing – and the figure is rising.

Then there are the 2.25 million bed days that were lost in the NHS last year due to delayed transfers of care – patients marooned in hospital, with the number of delays attributable to local authority social care rising by 85% over the past two years.

It is one of the clearest examples of how “the complex patchwork of health and social care strains at the seams”, as the CQC recently warned.

Mr and Mrs Goleby in North Norfolk have been waiting almost 5 months now for a care package for Mrs Goleby, who remains in a care home despite being desperate to get back home – a couple who have been married for a very long time, forcibly separated and left in enormous distress. Should they really be faced with this at their time of life?

And as the financial pressure mounts, more and more care providers will go out of business – or will focus on the private care market. Domiciliary care contracts were handed back to 43 councils last year because of insufficient funding to meet care needs, which ADASS estimates has affected more than 3,000 people. More will leave the market as the finances for many simply do not stack up. The risk is greatest in parts of the country where there are fewer people paying privately.

These pressures show no signs of abating, and The King’s Fund, The Nuffield Trust and the Health have warned of a looming £2.5bn annual funding gap in adult social care by the end of the decade.

The way forward

Faced with this dismal landscape, it’s easy to conclude that this is an intractable problem. That would be the wrong conclusion. I will offer 7 proposals.

1) We will not solve this through the normal process of partisan politics. The record is one of total failure. And we need to recognise that the big challenges of today, people living with multiple long term chronic conditions – often a mix of physical and mental health issues – necessarily involves health and care services working closely together.

So, we need to establish a cross party process to develop a sustainable, long term settlement for the NHS and social care. Critically, this has to engage with the public and with staff.

I’ve been making this case since 2010 when I attempted to bring Andy Burnham and Andrew Lansley together.

And just over a week ago I coordinated a letter – together with Sarah Wollaston and Liz Kendall – from 90 MPs from across Parliament calling on the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to embrace a cross party process – an NHS and Care Convention. The discussion should not just be about money. We need to focus on those profound questions I highlighted at the start: how we help people have a fulfilling life and a good death; what responsibility we have to each other; the role of family and the wider community.

2) How we raise the additional resources necessary has to be done in a progressive way, based on ability to pay, but it must also be fair between the generations. Serious consideration should be given to a hypothecated Health and Care Tax perhaps based on a reformed National Insurance system. This could be a top up to other spending or could meet the full cost of the NHS and care.

But reform of NI would be necessary to ensure that people on high earnings above retirement age make a fair contribution. We cannot expect those overstretched in younger adult life starting a family, trying to buy their first home or renting to meet the full burden. And I have just turned 60. Does it really make sense that I get free prescriptions? Kate Barker’s Commission for the King’s Fund suggested a range of ways of raising extra resources. Many of these have merit.

Critically, additional resources for health and care must be used effectively to make the system more efficient and more effective and to shift emphasis to prevention of ill health which would potentially reduce the scale of increase in demand on health services.

3) We need to tackle the irrational and highly damaging divide between health and social care budgets.  Too many people fall through the gaps, caught in the crossfire between the NHS and local government. The drive for a pooled budget in Greater Manchester has massive potential to deliver better outcomes for people, making sure that the needs of individuals are not trumped by commissioning silos and organisations passing the buck. So, I favour the introduction of pooled budgets for localities with a single commissioner for local services with some democratic legitimacy – accountable to the community rather than to Whitehall.

We also need to see greater local experimentation, giving regions the freedom to innovate and shape a health and care system that works for local populations.  As a liberal, I believe in giving greater autonomy to communities, and I think we should be open to the idea of devolving tax-raising powers to the regions to allow them greater flexibility to innovate and try new things.

4) The Dilnot cap should be implemented. Pooling of risk makes sense and, for it to be sustainable, the partnership model – shared responsibility between the individual and the state – makes sense. It reduces the divide between the free NHS and means-tested social care, which causes such a sense of unfairness.

5)  A recent report from Stanford University School of Medicine says that ‘a focus on data in the coming years has the potential to make health care more preventive, predictive and personalised, meaningfully reduce health costs and lead to better patient outcomes.’ The power of data has the potential to transform the future of health and social care. Some estimates suggest a growth in the amount of medical data of 48% every year. Information is becoming easier to collect, analyse and understand, opening the door for major advances in preventive care, quality of care and cost of care. At both the individual and population level, data is helping to prevent ill health, diagnose earlier and treat patients.

One example is the dramatic increase in use of wearable devices which are collecting healthcare data. Globally, there were an estimated 274 million devices sold last year. Fitness bands are the most popular. Data produced can be linked directly to health professionals. We have the ability to track temperature, pain and stress through thermoelectric pulses. The promise of wearables is that they will help us to detect and treat illness at an earlier stage. At present the market is dominated by recreational technology and fitness companies but health and care organisations see the potential to make use of medically robust and relevant data.

We are at a very early stage but remote home monitoring is emerging, although the adoption of technologies in the UK is very slow. Some other European countries are ahead of the game – Norway has developed a national programme to drive the use of technology. In Spain, they are exploring how they can change the incentives to make it worthwhile for providers to invest in technology. They are moving to procurement of a service over a four year period with risk sharing. We need to learn that lesson. At a seminar last week we heard from a tech industry representative who was gloomy about the willingness of the NHS and care services to invest in technology solutions. The point was made that when the Government gets behind a technology, such as electric cars, it makes things happen. The argument was made that we could see dramatic advances in health and care and in the efficient use of resources if the Government similarly got behind assistive technologies in health and care.

The potential here is that we can empower people to take control of their lives, maintain independence for longer and stave off dependency which is so sapping of morale and of purpose.

6) But technology alone is not the answer. Ultimately, human contact, kindness and attention are essential for making life meaningful. As I’ve already mentioned, half of over 75-year old’s live alone. But couples can be lonely too – particularly where someone is caring for a loved one perhaps with dementia. And we can’t simply recreate the extended family all living on the same street. Adult children have careers often hundreds of miles away.

So, it seems to me that we all have to step up to the crease. We surely have a responsibility to each other. On every street, there are people living alone. In Potter Heigham in the Norfolk Broads a group of local people make sure that no one in the village need be lonely. They take people to the doctor or to hospital. They get people out of their homes. They do the shopping. The Community Circles initiative is another brilliant way of bringing people together to make a positive difference to the lives of others.

In Cornwall, one of the integrated care pioneers I identified, as minister, brings together volunteers with GPs and other health workers. Voluntary, public and private sector working together. It was a collaboration between councils, the NHS, Age UK, community services and Volunteer Cornwall. The aim, in part, was to help people have a good life.

One of my great frustrations is that the Pioneer programme was superseded by the Vanguard programme and the national support and promotion moved on. So often, exciting initiatives have their funding cut as crisis management takes over. And, when budgets are tight, it’s always community organisations which lose out first.

Another brilliant example of an approach which uses the power of communities is Shared Lives Plus. Families take people with learning disability or mental ill health into their homes instead of that person ending up in institutional care. They are paid for the care they provide but the cost is a fraction of the cost of institutional care. Within the membership of Shared Lives there are also small community based services which share the values and ethos of Shared Lives. There are 3,500 shared lives carer members and the numbers continue to grow. This is a very different approach which helps put people in control and helps them lead ordinary lives.

7) Finally, we must re-commit to the importance of people being in control of their care and their lives. Although the Care Act enshrined the right to a personal budget in law – and put the wellbeing of the individual at the heart of decision-making, the financial tsunami facing local authorities has undermined this shift of power. Increasingly, people are told that if care would be a bit cheaper in a care home than at home, that’s what the council will pay for. Budgets are constantly trimmed down to the bare basics. Funding for transport is lost, so people are more likely to be stuck at home.  I would like to see innovation enabling people to pool their budgets to employ local social enterprises of carers working in their locality. Too many councils still pay lip service to transferring power to citizens. This has to be challenged.

And then at the end of life, we must enable people to die where they want to and for their priorities to be respected. Too many are still trapped in an alien environment of the busy acute hospital. This will necessitate a shift in the financial incentives. We have the ludicrous situation that care is free in the place the person generally least wants to be but not free at home.

To conclude, as chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee, I can definitively confirm that this is not rocket science. It is solvable. At present we let people down horrifically. We waste money. We deny people dignity.  Even if we are now only the sixth biggest economy in the world – as the Chancellor admitted last week – we are capable of doing better than this.

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Reorganise Now and Delete Liverpool Chief Exec’s Post


Liverpool’s Spare Mayor could save more than £500,000 a year by abolishing the unnecessary post of Chief Executive and then the unnecessary post of City Mayor

This is a press release I have sent out this morning following the further bailing of Ged Fitzgerald last week:

Press Release for immediate use

Liverpool’s Liberal Democrat Group have repeated the call they made last March at the Council’s budget meeting in the light of a further 3 months suspension of the Council’s Chief Executive, Ged Fitzgerald.

Lib Dem Leader Cllr Kemp said, “we argued at the time that the post was no longer needed due to the forthcoming election of a Regional Mayor and his own Chief Executive and support staff. For the same reasons we argued for the abolition of the post of City Mayor. Now we have been without a Chief Executive for 6 months which will grow to at least 9 and there has been no noticeable reduction in the services of the Council. We also note that the Mayor of Liverpool has been almost totally eclipsed by the City Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram.

Deleting these posts and their hangers on will save the Council more than £500,000 in a full year.  That is money that would be better spent on the provision of front services. This is not a reflection on the reasons for Mr Fitzgerald’s suspension but a reflection of the fact that his absence with no effect proves the point that we made.

We currently have the former Chief Executive of Bradford in the Council at an exorbitant fee I hope that he will earn his money by looking at the suggestion that we made and repeat now”


Cllr Kemp can be contacted on 07885 626913

Editors note: Mr Fitzgerald was suspended on full pay on 23rd May. On 24th November he was given three months more bail

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