Liverpool – The spiritual home of North Korea?

LpoolTH

A Town Hall of which Kim Jong-Un would be proud!

Readers of my blog may recall that last November I complained to the Information Commissioner that Liverpool Council was, by its own admission failing by a wide margin to return FOI requests within the legal deadline. They Information Commissioner’s Office responded that they could not investigate a general case like this and could not investigate a specific request from me because I had no outstanding FOI myself. I now have!!

In November I wrote to a senior officer of the council relating to our continuing dispute about the sale of part of Calderstones Park. As part of that letter I asked for some information about e-mails and letters between the Officers and members of the Council, and Redrow and other players in the proposed redevelopment of the land. I said that if the information was not forthcoming my request should be treated as an FOI.

On the 16th December I was informed by that officer that the information request would be treated as an FOI. Two weeks ago, as part of an ongoing discussion with the council about Calderstones Park which I will talk more about in a few days, the officer said they would chase up the considerably outstanding FOI. To date I have not received the information I asked for almost 3 months after I asked for it and 2 months since I made it into an FOI.

This of course begs three questions:

1. Why does a councillor have to get information from the council by way of an FOI?
2. Why do officers of the council not respond to an FOI request within the required time period especially when the request is forwarded to them by a senior officer who has then chased up a reply?
3. What is it that council is trying to keep from me, the people I represent, the people who use the Park and the people of Liverpool generally?

Liverpool Councils openness and transparency and fails to conform to key laws which relate to openness and transparency. I append the letter that I have sent to the Information Commissioner and await not only a reply from him but also eventually the information that I have asked for from the Council.

And pigs might fly!

The letter to the ICO

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,
16, Dovedale Road,
Liverpool L18 1DW
07885 626913
Richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk

Christopher Graham Esq.,
Information Commissioner,
Wycliffe House Water Lane,
Wilmslow
Cheshire SK9 5AF

2nd February 2016

Dear Chris,
Re: Liverpool City Council
On 10th November last year I sent you the following letter. I was surprised to get a response from you that your office does not investigate generic complaints of none-compliance but only specific ones. It could therefore take my complaint no further because I had no FOI complaints outstanding so was not a personal complainant.

Dear Commissioner,

Re: Liverpool Council and FOIs

I am writing to you to suggest that you should undertake a review into the way that Liverpool City Council deals with FOI complaints.
I enclose two documents. The first is from a senior officer of the council complaining about my blog on FOIs which is the second document attached.
You will see that the officer makes no specific complaints although they are threatening unspecified actions against me. This is hardly surprising as it was this officer’s department that supplied me with the information on which I based my conclusions.
Frankly I have no idea how the Council is behaving and delivering compared with other councils or parts of the public sector. I am however, convinced that the council is behaving poorly and that it deals with the letter and not the spirit of the FOI laws. The fact is, as admitted by the council, that it only gets responses to FOIs in 80%+ of the questions raised with it.
You will note also the rise in FOIs which has corresponded to the reduction in proper questioning and debate through other parts of what is an abnormal democratic process.
I am asking you to review the actions of the council as a whole in this matter. Should you do so I can assure you that there are a plethora of Liverpool citizens who would be prepared to tell you how difficult it has been to get answers from the council and how poor some of those answers have been.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE
Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

I now have a specific complaint which I am asking you to look at and then review the inability of your office to deal with my complaint of November in the light of this request.
I append a copy of a letter from Liverpool’s City Solicitor in which she confirmed that information that I had asked for in relation to Calderstones Park and the Harthill Estate would be dealt with as an FOI request from that date (16th December). To be sure that this would happen I also sent a letter to the council employee who leads on FOI requests on that date.
The matter is a particularly sensitive one in that I am currently being accused by the Council of not accurately representing a decision that they have made regarding the sale of part of Calderstones Park. To enable me to defend myself properly against what is an absurd allegation I have asked for information from the council about all correspondence between the council, politicians and officers with the prosed developers of the land and other identified partners.
As of today’s date I have not received this information which is in clear breach of FOI timescales. Although I have not raised this as an FOI item I have also yet to receive a copy of the plan of the land take for the partial sell off which I have been seeking for 2 months.
I would be grateful if you would look into this matter as this is not only an important issue for me but the failure of the Council to respond to FOIs.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,
Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

Posted in Liverpool City Council | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The need for a public health movement in England

antiquesugarcontainer

A little of this stuff is great. Too much damages your health!

On Wednesday it was a real privilege to be at, never mind chair, the annual public health conference for England. The meeting was composed of Directors of Public Health, Doctors, professors, Health Victors, civil servants councillors, volunteers – in fact a huge range of people involved in public health.
Put simply ‘Public Health’ is about keeping people safe and healthy and stopping them from becoming ill. This has always been important nowhere more so than in Liverpool, where we had the world’s first ever Medical Officer of Health. Dr Duncan, because of the needless deaths from cholera. Millions of lives a year are saved and millions more people given good lives because of the work of public health professionals. Many illnesses have been all but eradicated. Polio, TB and many more are almost relics of the past in wealthy countries and increasingly becoming so in poorer countries.
So is the battle against illness and disease over? Of course not. Different decades present different challenges. Take tobacco. Smoking today is a fraction of what it was in Europe and America. Yet in developing countries increased affluence is leading to increased smoking leading to increased deaths.
The tsunamis of illness facing us in England (and probably in the other parts of the UK as well) are almost entirely manmade and therefore preventable. Speaker after speaker drew attention to the huge problem of obesity especially in children. 10% of under 5s are obese. This becomes about 30% of 11 year olds. They will be ill for life suffering from a range of maladies because many of their conditions will have been built into their body by that age. Poor circulation, heart, liver and kidney problems with a reduced bone structure means that on average the current generation of teenagers will die younger than my generation of 60 year olds.
The five horsemen of the health apocalypse are sugar, salt, drugs, alcohol and poverty. Some of these problems need legislation, others need cultural changes.
Take obesity. I believe that it needs legislation to:
1. Reduce the amount of sugar and salt in foods; and
2. Make labelling much clearer about what is in prepared food
3. Introduce a water shed in the media for certain types of food and drink
But that only deals with part of the problem
4. What about parents who don’t care about what they and their children eat?
5. What about people who are too poor to buy decent food?
6. What about people who can afford to buy decent food but don’t know how to prepare it?

Between all those 6 areas there is a solution. A solution that will enable children to grow up healthily and keep them out of health problems which are costly to deal with. But the impact on life viability and life pleasure is so much more important than the money.
But most of these people who read this blog will say that is so obvious why is it not happening? Well the easy answer is “vested interests and ignorance”. Many people do not know what is in their food and many more don’t care. They think that there will always be a pill to save them. But it’s the vested interests that predominate. Just as the tobacco industry fought for years to pretend that tobacco didn’t cause harm so the manufacturers of ‘pop’ prepared foods, processed meats and the like. Indeed I was trolled on Wednesday by a number of people who took the libertarian view that people should be allowed to do what they want. Amusingly I looked one up and found that their full time job as doing PR for a tobacco company.
There are too many £s and $s to be made out of unhealthy food for the big companies to roll over just because of the harm that their product can cause. Please note the can! I am not a killjoy. If you want to consume unhealthy food and drink from time to time and know what you are doing that’s fine. When I was a boy we had a bottle of pop every Sunday with our lunch. It’s when kids have a bottle or can of pop every day that the cumulative effect comes in. Healthy food is as good and as pleasurable as bad food. I don’t want us to be a nation of finger wagers telling people off for eating and drinking the wrong stuff. I want us to be a nation which supports our citizens into a better way of eating and drinking by example.
And that is why we need a movement to deal with two front problem.
Both to get legislation in place and change the culture of food and drink we need to have an army of people working together to promote healthy and enjoyable alternatives. That’s why we need to put the Professors, Doctors and other professionals into the same army as the Councillors and health charities. I want Public Health England to pull together all the agencies and organisations so that the picture becomes clear nationally and no one has to make ill informed choices about eating and drinking because legislation has failed them or ignorance clouds their judgement. I want the Professors and Doctors to provide the evidence that we can then take into Parliament and into our communities.
On Wednesday a leading civil servant Duncan Selbie, the director of Public Health England called for a revolution in the way we do things. Who am I, a mere Lib Dem politician, to disagree with him!!

Posted in Public Health | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If only every UKIP member had been in Church today

African Choir

The ‘Alive Believers’ Choir’ preparing to sing today in St Nicholas’ Church

As a liberal I don’t really believe in compulsion. However as I sat in the Annual Anglican Civic Service this morning I really wished I could make very UKIP member in Liverpool attend today’s service and others like it.

Our Lord Mayor’s theme this year has been diversity. Last year Erica’s theme was volunteering. They both made their civic services reflective of their term in office. Diversity was much in evidence today both in the performances and in the makeup of the congregation.

The first music was from the Church’s own choir. We then sang a traditional Christian Hymn. Then we had a most beautiful dance from a young Indian Women. After more traditional C of E stuff we then had an African Church Choir singing both one of their traditional hymns and then a song about faith in Liverpool created for the event. Lastly we sang two verses from the National Anthem. The first standard one but the second the
I know some people, don’t like our National Anthem but is there any decent person who could disagree with the last 4 lines of today’s second verse?

Lord, make the nations see
Justice and harmony
And form one family
The wide world o’er

This was, of course theme of the sermon by the Rector of Liverpool Rev Dr Crispin Pailing. His theme was all about diversity and the fact that “difference isn’t dangerous”. But that is only true amongst people of good will and good intent. Too often people see different and see better or worse. “They’re not like us, so they can’t be as good as us”. Or even worse, “they’re not like us, we must protect ourselves from them”.
As I looked around the Church and then the Town Hall where we went after the service I had no need to be afraid of anyone at the service or reception. Different yes. Some of them were women and that’s different from me! There were people there from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean. The Honorary Consuls for the City had mostly come in their national costumes and there were a number of children in the national dress of other European Countries. So it was easy to see the differences BUT what was more important it was possible to feel the similarities.
Above all every single person there was a Scouser. In my view there are only two types of people. Those who were lucky enough to be born a Scouser and those who wished they had been born a Scouser. Well both Erica and I are blow-ins. She came after her father died when she was five. I first came to Liverpool when I was 21 days old but only moved here when I was 21 years old. Liverpool has taken us both in although some of my political opponents might say I have taken Liverpool in!
Today’s diversity was nothing to be feared but very much to be welcomed. We are a port city. Goods flow through our City from almost every Country in the people. People come to our Coty from almost every Country in the World. Some of them decide to stay. They bring their own cultures which they still hold dear and graft their culture on to that of the host community. That isn’t weakening an English Culture its creating it.
What we are today has been created by successive waves of immigration. Our Country has been physically invaded in the first millennium from Scandinavia and at the start of the second Millennium from France. From 1600 onwards people came to this Country because it offered them a chance. They could practice their religions and their beliefs relatively freely. They could practice their trades and earn a living. They made the UK one of the strongest Countries in the World – it still is for all its faults.
And that’s why I wanted UKIP members to be present in that Church today. I wanted them to see the strengths of migration and the skills and talents that it has brought our City. I wanted them to understand that the UK in general and Liverpool in particular should not be cowering away from Europe and the rest of the World but embracing Europe and the rest of the World.
Keeping our Country strong cannot be achieved by building real or metaphorical walls to keep ‘them out and us in’. Our strength will be manifest if we engage Europe and the rest of the World. If we go out and take our ideas on justice and democracy out to them and build a World.
I am very proud of our Country. It hasn’t got everything right in the past and it isn’t getting everything right now. But it is still one of the best places in the World to live. As I go around the World for United Cities & Local Government I know how much others respect our Council and our ways too.
That’s why I have the confidence to say I want my Country to be a World Leader not by force of arms but by force of argument. If we want things for our Country to be different to be better we need to ensure that things are different in the rest of the World are better in the rest of the World.
I am not a little Englander like UKIP and the more thuggish varieties of right wingers like the BNP or EDL. I and my black, brown and yellow skinned friends from all over the World who are now Scousers know that this is not the right way. Everyone at the service today was a BIG ENGLANDER! We will face the future with confidence and not fear. If only UKIP had been with us today they might have thought of coming out of their bunker and joining us in our comfortable, multi-racial, multi-cultured and bloody marvellous city.

Posted in Liverpool, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How should Liverpool’s politicians fund their election campaigns?

JoesDo

The Mayor of Liverpool’s fundraising website

I had an e-mail recently from our Party treasurer who told me that since I was chosen as the Lib Dem candidate for the Mayoralty at the start of January we have received just over £1,000 in donations. He gave me a little more detail. One donation has been for £100, 2 for £50 and most of the rest varied between £10 and £25. I know that there was at least one £5 donation because it was pushed through my door with a message attached. “Joe must go!” All the donations have been from private individuals who live in Liverpool.
I’m delighted with this for two reasons. Firstly, for Lib Dems it’s a lot of money. We don’t get big amounts from trades unions or the private sector. Almost all our money comes from our own pockets. This £1,000+ will pay for most of the campaign in one of our key wards as we normally print our own leaflets we run cheap! But I am slo pleased because I believe that this is the right way to raise money. The money has come from two groups of people:
• Special donations from people who already give a lot of time, effort and money for our cause. They will get scant return for it. Joining the Lib Dems is not a great career move as I discovered more than 45 years ago when I joined the Liberal Party.
• Donations from the communities that we serve because people want us to keep on doing the job. What greater commendation can you get than voters saying that our service is so good it’s even worth paying for?
So Lib Dems will continue to fund raise in this way. In fact I will make three pledges as our Mayoral candidate:
1. I will not accept any donation of more than £250. We will not be bought by anyone.
2. I will not accept any donation from any Company which has any sort of contractual or partnership relationship with the Council. We think it wrong that politicians should seek money which might be seen (correctly or not) to have influenced them.
3. I will ensure that all laws relating to political funding are scrupulously followed inside the council and out. The public of Liverpool should know who, if anyone, is making sizeable donations to political parties.
But the thoughts that I was having about our funding made me think of something that I saw in the press last May. It was an account of a fundraising event for Mayor Anderson.
The event was designed to raise money for “local charities and the Mayor’s campaign fund”.
I believe that this event has raised a number of legal issues for the Mayor, the Labour Party and the Council. I will not deal with those today but I can tell you that I have raised concerns about this with a number of national bodies responsible for these issues and the Council. Only time will tell if my concerns are legally justified.
But I will comment today on what I believe to be the morality of this event.
Firstly, I find it surprising that a Labour Mayor should go down the Tory route of raising money from big businesses. This seems, at best, a hypocritical route to take.
Secondly, two of the main sponsors of the event have relationships with the Council. As I said above I cannot comment on the legality of what has happened but I can comment on the perception. What will the man in the street make of a local system whereby businesses get business from a council after giving money to members of that council? Especially when those donations are earmarked according to the Mayor’s own website for “the Mayor’s campaign fund”.
Thirdly, I believe that if you get large amounts of money from any source it is good democratic practice to be transparent about it. Such sponsorship should be made readily available in the appropriate place to anyone who was interested and not just those who might have seen it on a screen grab in the Echo.
I think that reforming the way donations are given to political parties there would be two major benefits for democracy:
1. People would trust elected politicians more. They would know that the only purpose that a person has for being elected is care of the community and City that they serve.
2. Policies would change because politicians would not vote for policies which benefited their donors which I am convinced happens on the national stage.
Those two things will lead to a third effect:
3. Higher turnouts in elections. There is a huge gap between the elected and electors and even bigger gap between the elected and the none-voter. Many, many people will not vote for any of us because we are perceived to be on the take and do not trust why we do things.
I am always pleased to talk to people about these issues and indeed anything about Liverpool and what affects it internally or externally. You can keep up with my Mayoral policies, pledges and activities at my website http://www.richardkemp.org.uk. You can even make a modest donation there if you wish!

Posted in Liverpool Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Why Liverpool must vote to stay in Europe”

Echo-Arena-Dusk

The Liverpool Arena would not have been built without support from the EU, neither would the L1 shopping Centre or the new Exhibition Centre

Last night I attended the first meeting of strongerin  in South Liverpool. This is the campiagn to keep the UK in the EU.

This  is what I said.

“We face, probably sometime this year, a referendum on our membership of the European Union it is important that we reflect on what the EU has done for us and what it will do for us in future.
When I was little my classroom still had a map on it with the big heading at the top “The Empire on which the sun never sets”. It was already untrue but only partly so. In the late 50’s we had only just begun the process of decolonisation as we graciously allowed our colonies to elect their own governments and shape their own destinies.
The “white” colonies of New Zealand, Australia and Canada had already gone. They were independent since the start of the 20th century but, as we saw in the two World Wars, still maintained massive attraction to the Mother Country. Indeed that is not dead. A leading Australian politician told me recently that he thought Australia would once again, “answer the call” if the UK ever made that call.
But for New Zealand and Australia it was is what happens in the Pacific and China that is more important than trade with us. Canada looks to the USA with which it shares a huge land border. The African Countries that I visit are proud of their Commonwealth links and opportunities but do not look to us for leadership. Countries like Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa have their own developing economies and are working their own way out of poverty.
So that map only now exists in people’s minds. Unfortunately it massively colours their judgement. Too many of our politicians pine for a ‘Golden Age’ which hasn’t really existed since the end of the 19th Century. They see the UK as far more important than it really is. Perhaps that is why so many people who want out are elderly and the keenest to stay in are young people. I am proud of my Country. I want it to be a force for good in the World but believe that this can best be done by being part of the European Union.
Let’s start with the myths:
• The EU is not a vast bureaucracy. It employs less people than Lancashire County Council
• It does not force laws on Countries. Each Country has a Commissioner and a seat at the Commission as well as in the Parliament where it can shape European wide responses. Each Country then can take and modify, within parameters, Brussels decisions and enshrine them in national law.
• The EU does not push Humans Rights laws down our throats. In fact the European Court of Human Rights is not part of the EU but part of the Congress of Europe which was started by Winston Churchill.
• It does not want us to have straight bananas and square tomatoes. Almost all stories like this come from the fertile minds of the Daily Wail.
What does it do?
• It has provided us with more than £1 billion through Objective One and successor programmes which have helped transform our industrial and commercial landscape.
• It provides a market for the goods which we hope will increasingly pour through our Port and onto other parts of the UK and continental Europe.
• It provides cross border security
• It helps our Universities with research and other grants.
• it gave us the Capital of Culture crown which has changed the World’s perceptions of our City and brought 15,750,000 people from across Europe to our City in 2008
All these positive benefits would be put at risk.
• We would have to negotiate a new trade deal with the EU. Our concerns would not be a priority
• We would need to renegotiate 50+ trade deals with other Countries. The most important of these is the USA which has already indicated to us that they feel we are of more use to the USA and more likely to get US investment if we remain in the EU.
• The free flow of labour would be challenged which mostly works to our advantage
• Foreign and UK companies would not risk investment here but will put new plant and factories in Continental Europe.
Ironically most of the things which we apparently find most irksome we would have to do anyway if we want to trade our goods and service into Europe. Ask Norway and Switzerland who accept as many regulations as we do without having any chance to influence them and pay a hefty fee into the EU for the right to continue to do so.
Whenever the EU referendum takes place the Liberal Democrats will be prepared to work with people who want to stay in from any party or background. As the most committed internationalist party in the UK our position is as clear today as it was when the UK decided not to join the EC when it was first formed in the 50s. The UK and the Liverpool City Region in particular will benefit from continued membership of the EU. We will pull out all the stops between now and the referendum to convince people that this is the only realistic way forward.

Posted in International Activity, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remember World Holocaust Day

Holocaust

Remember the millions of innocents murdered in holocausts

This Wednesday marks World Holocaust Day. Originally designed to remember the 6,000,000 Jews who were slaughtered in the Nazi Death Camps it has been expanded to remember all holocausts including those that are taking place in the Middle East today and the terrible events in Rwanda 20+ years ago.
I am pleased that the Jewish Telegraph with their national coverage believes that Liverpool does this better than anywhere else in the Country. We live in a time when there is less and less respect for people from other colours, faiths and cultures. World Holocaust Day is designed to make us think again about the past so that we do not repeat such terrible mistakes in the future.
Last Saturday I joined Erica at the Shabbat service at Childwall Synagogue. Two weeks before I spent time at a Russian Orthodox Service in Kazan. I have been to services over the years of all the major faiths. What strikes me most about my visits is just how much these faiths have in common. They worship differently and sometimes different Gods but their core belief in community, compassion and care far outweighs any differences between them. It is only at the extremes of faith and politics that small minorities find ways of shouting about their differences rather than talking about their agreements.
I cannot be present at the Town Hall but I will find 2 minutes on Wednesday to have a silent 2 minute refection on holocausts and the need to work together to prevent them.
I hope that you will do so as well.

From The Jewish Telegraph Online

Ex-Lord Mayor will host HMD ceremony

LIVERPOOL’s former Lord Mayor, Councillor Erica Kemp, will host an intimate ceremony on Wednesday in the Lady Mayoress’s Parlour in the Town Hall as part of Holocaust Memorial Day.
Cllr Kemp has also pledged to be the Guardian of the Memory of Holocaust victim Gitle Grosbom. She will honour her memory by lighting a candle each year. Moreover, at Cllr Kemp’s suggestion, Liverpool’s current Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Tony and Ann Concepcion, will light candles for a Mordchai Kopel, of Poland, and Austrian Flora Schlesinger.
Cllr Kemp said: “Perhaps this encourage more people to do the same.”
So far as the Yad Vashem-UK Foundation are aware, Liverpool leads the way, as they are not aware of any other town or city participating in this way on HMD.
The theme of this year’s HMD is ‘Don’t Stand By’, stressing the importance of not being bystanders in the fight against racism, prejudice and antisemitism.
The Lord Mayor and Cllr Kemp Erica will be special guests at Childwall Synagogue’s Shabbat service tomorrow.
On Tuesday, Cllr Concepcion will launch a special exhibition at the Town Hall to raise awareness of the Holocaust. It is being staged by Father’s House, a Christian congregation based in Deeside, who have been exhibiting in shopping centres and taking out questionnaires to shoppers to ask about their recollection and understanding of Holocaust.
He said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is not only a time to remember those millions who died in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, but is also a call to action for the present. “The theme of ‘Don’t Stand By’ urges us to consider our own responsibility over issues such as hate crime and prejudice to ensure they have no place in our society. The service will be moving and poignant and it will also encourage us all to help to build a safer future.”

Childwall’s Councillor Jeremy Wolfson added: “This exhibition gives an opportunity for us to reflect on the Holocaust and raise awareness not only of what happened, but to try and ensure that the attitudes which led to it are not repeated.”
The following day, the Lord Mayor will join faith leaders in special laying wreaths in memory of all victims of persecution at the memorial stone in St John’s Gardens before a special service at Liverpool Town Hall. Allerton Synagogue’s Rabbi Dan Lieberman will join the Lord Mayor in lighting a memorial candle. Rabbi Lieberman will lead prayers, while a blessing will be given by the Rector of Liverpool, Rev Dr Crispin Pailing. Pastor Michael Fryer, of Father’s House, will address the service at which King David High School choir will sing.

Anne Frank Trust UK ambassadors from Alsop High School and St John Bosco Arts College will give a presentation of poetry specially composed for HMD.

Posted in Liverpool, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If it’s good enough for Northern Ireland – Its good enough for us!!

LpoolTH

This should be the base for a Liverpool City Region Parliament

Yesterday I heard a really unspectacular speech from Greg Clark the Secretary of State for Local Government.
In it he claimed that local government would be healthier because we had less money! But intriguingly he really seemed to believe that he is really devolving power from the Centre to the City Regions through the Devolution Act which has at last passed through all its parliamentary stages.
Only one person seems to believe him. Joe Anderson made everyone in Liverpool laugh when he compared the City Region devolution deal with Magna Carta. Everyone else thinks it is a fairly modest step. It’s useful but it hasn’t really brought in more money. The £30,000,000 deal is work less than 50p per year per person inside the City Region. It won’t go far! Theoretically we have more power over the buses. BUT in the North East they have decided not to proceed with this idea because it would cost £240 million to buy out the existing bus companies even though those companies might well end up with better contracts under the new system.
So what we do have is authority over strategic direction on things like planning and transport and housing. We will have more influence over things like inward investment and we will have more clout as one body than 6 bodies working together. But our deal is massively weaker than that in Manchester where they will take responsibility for Health and policing as well.
Why does it have to be this way? Let’s compare the Liverpool City Region with Northern Ireland. Liverpool CR has a bigger population and a bigger Gross Domestic Product than NI. Yet apparently its okay for them to have their own Parliament but not us. NI is the weakest of the three devolved administrations, partly because that’s partly the way NI politicians want it. But they do have far more powers than we do. They have control over things like policing, health, justice, benefits, some levels of taxation, water – a whole host of polices. Unlike us they are not just a delivery body but a deciding body. Their policies will be ones that will be implemented whereas much of what we will be able to do is better implementation of London based plans.
The argument is that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are cohesive territories with a shared history and culture. Well isn’t greater Liverpool. Not everyone in the LCR wants to be in it. Southport for example has longed for independence from the rest of us for more than 40 years. But that is no different from parts of NI that would prefer to be in the Republic. The fact is that the Greater Liverpool Conurbation is a more cohesive and tight geographic unit that NI. There is no reason why we could not take more on.
What else could we do?
Let’s take health. If we accept that the job of the NHS is to keep as many people alive as healthily as ;possible for as long as possible then we must realise that in different parts of the Country we need different solutions because we have different problems. The disparities in longevity between Liverpool and the rest of the Country and between different parts of Liverpool are huge. We will never deal with those disparities with the rigid health service that we have trying to achieve the same targets with the same methods and the same tools but ignoring those crucial regional differences. Local controls could introduce proper local targets. They could join up housing, leisure, transport and education facilities (and others) in a cohesive programme to stop people becoming ill.
Let’s take taxation. We locally could decide which taxes were the most important to us and decrease some and increase others. Until we achieve fiscal devolution we will be tied to London based decision making because we are tied to the purse strings of Westminster.
Let’s take benefits. Local decision making and local delivery mechanisms could use the benefits much more usefully by supporting people into work (and most people do want to work) rather than penalising those who cannot work.
Breaking the power of London is an imperative for the regions and conurbations of England. Liverpool did not become strong because London allowed us to. It became strong because local people established local businesses that could take advantage of a whole range of local factors. People were not tied down by London based bureaucracy but empowered to take decisions for themselves. Liverpool declined as the power that we had trickled away to an over centralised government and a private sector that similarly wanted to centralise its control and command mechanisms in the South.
Unlike the current administration I am not prepared to take second best to Manchester and third best to Northern Ireland. For me the devolution debate is not over for a generation as some have claimed but up for renewal and negotiation from the 6th of May this year. Second best is never good enough for Liverpool. We have drifted into it because small minded Labour politicians could not agree to work as adults to agree the big picture priorities and solutions for the City Region but preferred to bicker about minority sectional and personal interests.
That must stop. Who the Mayor of Liverpool is (or the City Region for that matter) is not as important as what the Mayor does. We need to be thinking ahead, creating real partnerships, facing the World with confidence. That is the Lib Dem pledge for May in Liverpool.

Posted in Liverpool City Region, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment