Key questions about Everton’s New Stadium

Everton_FC

We want the Everton Stadium Plan to come off but there are many, many questions that need to be answered.

Just to avoid doubt and to stop the spread the circulation of malicious rumours I want to see Everton develop a new stadium and I believe that, in principle, the North Docks are the best place to do it. Having two big clubs in Liverpool is clearly in the interest of every tax payer. Just look at the hotels, bars, shops and restaurants when either of the clubs are playing in town. They add a lot of money directly to our communities; add a lot of money through the business rates which will now keep all of and add a huge amount to the prestige of the City. The Bramley Moore Dock area clearly needs something big to kick start as the Albert Dock kick-started the redevelopment of the South Docks 30+ years ago.

I say these things because it is now my task, as an opposition councillor to hold the controlling Party (in this case the Mayor) to account and ask questions about this and any other time when they propose to spend money or in other ways commit the resources of the Council.

It seems to me that the very brief report on such a complex matter leaves many questions unanswered. Here are just some of them.

  1. Why is a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’ needed for a transaction that should be relatively simple? Club builds stadium, club uses stadium!
  1. Why do billionaires (the ones who now own EFC) need a guarantee from a third party? In fact why do they need a loan at all? Surely they should be able to fund the development either from their own resources or by giving ‘mortgages’ against their own existing assets. This would not enable the Council to make a profit from the deal but would be cheaper for the owners. Does the Council know what assets the Club and its owners have available to them?
  1. What assets are available to the council to use against a guarantee if, for any reason, work stopped on the development before the stadium was completed. The owners of EFC come from a very difficult region of the world and who knows what might happened in that area within the next 2 or 3 years that might prevent them fully committing to the Club as it is now never mind as it will appear throughout development. The report only talks about the loan being secured against the rental income. But if there is no rental income?!
  1. What will happen to EFC’s current ground? I understand that it will have a negative value when the club and its revenue stream move out. It will costs more to develop and remediate the land than the land will be sold for.
  1. What will happen to those pubs, snack bars etc. who currently make a considerable part of their income from the EFC presence? Will they be given preference for the new facilities around the new ground and will they be able to afford it?
  1. How much will the public sector need to put in to make this work? The report makes clear that the Club needs no finance from the Council for the stadium but who is going to pay for everything else? There will need to be a huge investment in roads; transport; a new station; new services and general infrastructure to mean that the stadium is accessible and useable. To develop the L1 shopping centre the private sector put in £1.1 billion. But the public sector put in £100 million for infrastructure which is in a better shape that that in the North Docks.
  1. What will the costs be to the public sector for this external activity? Given that a large amount of the money for L1 public works came from the EU, a source no longer available to us, will the money have to come from other road etc? Programmes for which there is already little cash in the pot?
  1. Why is there no consideration being given to the vital infrastructure questions in this report. Do we know what is needed? Have we any idea of the costs of the programme of action which will ensue?

As I said at the outset the Liberal Democrats wish this scheme well. We want it to work. But at the moment there are too many questions which have not been answered in the report. Questions that could come back to haunt both us and Everton.

Just remember some of the problems with other clubs:

  • Northampton Borough Council appears to have lost £10 million on an so-called investment in their local team’s plans for a new stadium.
  • Leeds City Council has twice lost money on investing in Leeds FC when they tried to provide help to keep Leeds in the top flight and top earnings levels.
  • We all know the problems with Manchester Utd when new owners failed to put their own money in and instead, in that case, piled the debt on the club in a way that proved to be unsustainable.

The Liberal Democrats are asking these questions not because we want to stop then proposals but because we want to ensure that it proceeds on a firm footing. This is a minimum 40 year deal for the council. We must get it right.

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The British response to terrorism? Carry on as normal

Whitehall

A picture I took of Whitehall at about 5 pm on 22nd March. Normally you can’t move for traffic near Trafalgar Square at this time

What a nasty piece of work Katie Hopkins is. I’ve only heard of her recently as I do not frequent the type of media where she contributes. I did, however, come across her today for something she contributed to Fox News, another outfit that I have little time for. Basically she claimed that London had been cowed by the terrorist attack on the Houses of Parliament yesterday. I don’t know where she was but I was just outside the exclusion barrier and it did not seem like that to me.

Clearly there was shock as we were only about 300 yards from the ‘action.’ Concern was expressed about what was happening. There was clear interest and sympathy were expressed about the potential victims and the fact that our Parliament had been attacked. But no panic and certainly no thought of being cowed by the action of one or many. London moved on not without heart, not without sympathy but it moved as it always does when problems beset it.

That, Ms Hopkins, is the British way. It may not suit your warped belief systems that we don’t panic; that we don’t carry on; that most of us will not be lured into racist and separatist views by the acts of one person. But that’s just the way that we are and have always been. Perhaps that was exemplified best by the fact that the emergency services fought to save the life of the attacker although they must have been appalled by his actions. That is what we do Katie Hopkins.

Today Parliament reassembled at the normal time. Of course it is true that they had tributes and silence for the dead and injured. Then they got on with the business of running a democracy as they should do. For most of us this will be a one day wonder. We will hope and indeed expect that lessons will be learned. But democracy is not always easy to physically defend.

On the one hand we need to protect our law makers and other decision makers who, for good or ill, with or against our wishes make decisions which affect us on a daily basis. On the other hand democracy cannot work unless it can connect at its heart with the people it serves. I have been in the Commons, Lords or Portcullis House 6 times this year for different events connects with local government and how we serve the people. On any day thousands of people visit Parliament either to participate as I do or to be tourists to see their MPs in action or just wonder and the beauty of the buildings. Nothing must prevent that from happening.

But for others the day will change their lives for ever. The families of the innocent dead will remember the 22nd of March 2017 for the rest of their lives. In 20 years’ time their families will be wondering what their kinsperson would have achieved if their lives had not been cut short. Every police officer will think about the dangers and perhaps give their spouses and children an extra hug as they set off for a shift from which they might not return.

My predecessor as Lib Dem Leader in Liverpool, Paula Keaveney, was caught up in this. Two of the Edge Hill students which she was taking to the Commons were injured and one hospitalised. OK they are fine and will recover. They will always think of the car running at them; they will always remember the time secluded in Westminster Hall as they waited to be allowed out safely. Will that turn them against democracy? Will it make them more determined to get stuck in and make our democracy work? Only time will tell.

I was appalled at the reaction of Donald Trump Jr in his criticism of the words of the mayor of London. Cities can be dangerous places. BUT British cities are nowhere near as dangerous as American ones. Here guns are still a rarity. Mass killings take place very infrequently compared to one a day in the USA.

We can never stop the type of event that happened yesterday. Unless you ban cars and knives people will always have the ability to kill and maim. Even then they can kill you with brick or a knotted scarf.

You can only do three things:

  1. Provide decent but controlled access to the places where people and power meet. We do need to check every public building not only Parliament but our Town Halls as well.

 

  1. Work with communities to promote greater harmony in our society and better understanding of the views and opinions of others.

 

  1. Work within communities to enable them to detect people who might be on the verge of extremism and get the authorities to deal with them quickly and safely.

 

To some this will sound like wishy-washy liberalism. Guilty as charged! But I actually think that this what most people think. People like Ms Hopkins don’t really like the UK of 2017. They pine for an imaged world of 1917 when the UK was a great nation at the heart of an empire and where Johnny Foreigner knew his place. Those days are dead and gone. If you don’t like that Ms Hopkins go to America, become a full blooded Trumper but don’t try and spread you nonsense in this country or about this country.

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At last a Joe we can all like!!

harmer

Joe Harmer. The first of many new and vibrant members of the Liverpool Lib Dems who will be taking seats from Labour on the council.

The Lib Dems have adopted Joe Harmer as our candidate for the bye-election for the Wavertree Ward which will be held on May 4th. the same day as the Liverpool City Region Mayoral election.

Joe Harmer only joined the Party in September 2015 but comes from a long Lib Dem tradition. His father Roger is the Deputy Leader of the Birmingham Lib Dems. Wavertree Ward was held by the Lib Dems for many years before the formation of the coalition in Westminster which caused many of our supporters to stay at home.

Joe Harmer said, “As I have gone around Wavertree in the past few weeks it has become absolutely clear to me that the councillors have not been doing their job. Resident after resident have reported to me that rubbish has been left in the streets, lights have been left unrepaired and the basics of a clean, green and safe neighbourhood have been ignored by Labour councillors. I know from working with my Dad what a difference a good hard working Lib Dem councillor can make to the people of an area like Wavertree.

My own view is simple. Wavertree Ward, part of which I represented until 2004, has never looked worse. No-one seems to care about the day to day problems of its people. Joe Harmer will be great at a local level but will also be a great and confident member of our growing team on the City Council. With Lib Dems gaining seats from Labour and Tory alike nationally and with Labour locally as well as nationally arguing amongst themselves and not against the Tory Government we will go all out to win this seat.

Wavertree is part of our Southern Seats Strategy. Already in our super seven targets we have this bye-election and at least two more Labour councillors have decided not to stand next year so that they can spend more time with their families!

 

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Let’s have a real debate about drugs

Cannabis

Donald Trump probably thinks that this is a number of shamrock plants. It is in fact cannabis! We need to reconsider as a society how we deal with this and other drugs

At the Lib Dem Spring Conference we held an interesting debate about prisons and the need for reform. Per head of population the UK has more people in prison than any other country in Western Europe. This does not say, regrettably that we have the lowest crime rates in Western Europe. Prisons have reached the point where they can no longer rehabilitate. They are overcrowded and understaffed. They just lock people up in such a way that the only learning is about how to be a better criminal.

One of the reasons for this is the way that we treat drugs. Up to 14,000 of the approximately 85,000 people in orison are there because of convictions relating to drugs dealing or usage.

The drugs trade causes huge problems in our society for all of us. Many burglaries and much petty crime is caused by users needing a fix. At the more serious end of the trade serious drug pushers and importers make massive amounts of money from this business. Many of the shootings and stabbings in Liverpool, are connected with turf wars over the drugs trade as gangs fight for territorial advantage.

Lib Dems believe that we should thoroughly review the way the state handles drugs and seek to decriminalise it. Those who just use should be left to get on with it subject, of course, to limits on how they drive and do other things whilst under the influence.

Some people will say that this is totally irresponsible and that by advocating this line, which I support, we are encouraging drugs dependency. There are two responses to this:

  1. That nothing we have done so far has actually stopped the increase in the users and usage of drugs. I have no personal experience but apparently it is very easy to get hold of the recreation drug of your choice.
  2. That this is also true of other things which are legal and controlled. Tobacco; Alcohol and gambling are all addictive but they are also legal.

Of course some people become alcoholics now; some get addicted to gambling and some smoke themselves to an early grave. BUT with the exception of gambling alcohol and smoking problems are on the decrease. Adult smoking numbers have gone from 80% to 20%. Binge drinking on the streets is in sharp decline although middle class dinner party and end of the working day drinking is increasing.

So all thoughts of things can progress from a minor usage to addiction but we treat drugs very differently.

What would happen, do you think, if we did decriminalise drugs and instead:

  • Sold them in a regulated way?
  • Through approved, visible and checkable retailers?
  • Subjected them to tax?
  • Provided overt help to people to come off their usage?

Well to some extent we know the answers to this. In other countries, largely Scandinavian, which have moved in this direction drug usage has declined; the number of addicts has declined; the amount of crime associated with them has declined. The tax take has gone up which means that countries taking this attitude, for example in Scandinavia, are able to pay for the consequences of dealing with the addictions caused.

You can also see what happened in the USA after the abandonment of prohibition of alcohol where everything predicted in the preceding paragraph actually happened.

As we look at costs we can see that removing just 2/3 of the people currently in prison would save the state more than £3 billion every year. Then we would reduce the cost of the police and emergency health services. We would reduce our insurance costs which are hugely inflated by burglary claims as people find things to sell to feed the habit.

Above all the US experience was that lots of people became less attracted to the use of alcohol because part of the thrill of drinking was that of doing something a little naughty, but which at the end of the day did neither them or other recreational users much if any harm.

You may not agree with this. Fair enough. But no-one I know thinks that what we are doing at present is successful. Most people think we are losing the battle because of the way that we currently conduct it. Change is inevitable so how do we handle change? The way to do is to get together with people from all persuasions and backgrounds to thrash out the myths from the facts the reality from the gossip and do something jointly to come up with implementable solutions.

A failure to do so allows super criminals to laugh all the way to the Cost del Sol. It allows people to be swept into petty crime. It allows our homes to be invaded by petty criminals and it allows us all to pay a very, very high price for inaction.

Will you join me locally or nationally in this debate?

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Putting Councils at the heart of Health and Social Care

Health PIc

The problems of health and social care will not be solved by privatisation or by demonstrations outside hospitals but by careful work and thinking about how to update both these sectors to meet new needs

Both a motion to the Lib Dem Conference to be moved on Saturday by Norman Lamb MP and me and the Independent Commission on the Funding of Health and Social Care place local government in a leading role for improving health services in England.

The first priority for new money and innovation must be given to public health, primary health care, including mental health and adult social care. The Independent Commission, established by Norman Lamb, but working independently of him, has quantified that by the financial year 2021/2022 health will need an extra £20 billion and social care will need an extra £6 billion just to keep up with the growing number of elderly and the changes in medical technology”.

When I speak on Saturday afternoon I will say,

“The first priority for a civilised society is to keep people healthy. Cuts of £800 million a year in the public health budget will lead to increased illness and misery as well as more expense further on. £1 spent on public health saves more than £15 in the rest of the health service over the following few years.

The second priority will be to deal with illness quickly and effectively and also cost effectively in people’s own homes. Hospitals should be the last resort and not the first port of call.

Lastly, when people do go into hospital we need to get them out again quickly. Hospitals are not the place to keep fit people who need social care not health care. It is bad for them and bad for the budgets of the NHS.

Simply putting more money into the NHS will not solve problems in the long term although more money is definitely required to effect much needed change.

Only by tackling the essential changes in practice and culture can we hope to provide a health and care system which will not buckle under the strain of increasing numbers of elderly”.

The Independent Commission on the funding of Health and Social Care has released the following interim report:

Health and Social Care: Delivering a Secure Funding Future

An interim report

 

We are a panel of independent specialists with extensive experience across the fields of healthcare, social care and health economics. We have been working to develop a response to the funding crisis facing our health and social care services.  We were brought together at the suggestion of Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb MP, to provide a view on the financial problems facing health and care, and possible solutions to them.

 

While the panel was convened by the Liberal Democrats and some members are affiliated to the Liberal Democrat Party, our discussions and our recommendations have been arrived at independently and are informed by our own professional backgrounds and experiences.  We have worked in a non-partisan way, to examine evidence from known sources and in consultation with people who have acknowledged expertise in the health and care sectors. Our starting point remains the basic principles of the NHS – that of universal availability and access free at the point of need.

 

Our conclusions will play a part in informing Liberal Democrat policy on the issue of health and care funding.  However, we sincerely hope that they will also be of interest to health and care policy makers of all political persuasions.

 

Our work is taking place over a six-month period and we have not yet completed the project. However, we have been asked to issue an interim report on our progress to assist discussion and debate. We intend to conclude our work later in the Spring.

 

Our interim conclusions are as follows:

 

  1. The current funding settlement for our health and care services is not fit for purpose.It is well documented that there is a projected funding gap in the region of £20bn across health services by 2020/21 and a further £6bn gap in social care. Yet the Government propose to spend a falling percentage of national income on health and care, at a time when demand is rising by about 4% a year. The proportion of GDP we spend on health is low compared to our European neighbours (ranking 13th out of the original 15 EU members) and is set to continue falling. While we welcome the announcement of additional funding for social care in the recent Budget, we are concerned that this amount will not be sufficient to plug existing gaps – which the most recent estimates suggest will be £2bn this year alone – and are keen to see a long-term solution which will ensure services are given a secure footing in the medium to long term.

 

  1. Wewill propose the establishment of an independent body to make health and care budget recommendations to Government, setting out what is needed to deliver services and essentially providing a similar function to that of the Office of Budget Responsibility. We believe that improving transparency and independence in budget setting for health and social care is essential – not only for the stability of services but also for improving public trust in how their taxes are being spent. There often appears to be little, or no, link between Government policy priorities in the health and care, and funding allocations. It is essential that, if we are to ask the public to contribute even more public money to the NHS and social care, that we also increase awareness of how this money is used.

 

  1. We believe the Government cannot continue to expect health and care services to close a funding gap of this size through further efficiencies. It is well documented that our NHS is already one of (if not the most) efficient health services in the world. While we should always continue to strive for a system which is as efficient as possible, for instance through increasing digitalisation of services, tele-medicine etc. This will in itself require additional finances and we do not believe that potential long-term savings will be sufficient without real upfront investment alongside.

 

  1. Additional investment in health and care services must be strictly targeted.  We are acutely conscious that in asking people to pay more towards our health and care services, policy makers have an obligation to ensure that money is used in the most efficient way possible.  As such, we recommend that the additional funding should, for at least the next three years, be ringfenced as an investment in out-of-hospital-care, specifically for use in primary care, mental health, social care and community services.

 

  1. We are unanimously of the opinion that it is necessary to raise additional revenue for health and care through taxation. We base this on all available estimates of the size of the shortfall in NHS and care funding. We are already seeing the fundamental principles which underpin these services – of universal availability and access free at the point of need – being undermined by longer waiting lists and rationing of NICE approved treatments. We remain a long way off from achieving genuine equality of access for those with mental ill health and in social care, we know that over a million older people are not getting the care and support they need. We are considering a number of options for where additional taxation should come from, taking account of how we can raise the amount of money needed; but also, how this can be done in a way which is progressive and takes account of intergenerational fairness.  The options under consideration are as follows and we will conclude which of these we think is preferable, in our final report:

 

    1. Raising income tax:  A one percent increase on all income tax rates would raise just over £4.6bn in 2017-18. We believe a key benefit of this approach is that it is fairly uncomplicated, and therefore transparent way of raising the additional revenue.
    2. Raising National Insurance Contributions (NICs): A one percent rise in NICs would generate a similar amount to a one percent rise in income tax. At present, we also believe there are some anomalies in the way NICs are charged. If reformed, they would present a progressive means of raising a greater amount of revenue. These would include reviewing the option of extending the upper earnings limit on NICs and/or extending the requirement to pay NICs to people who continue working past the age of 65.
    3. Introducing a dedicated health and care tax: Hypothecation of taxation which is used to pay for health and care would offer some clear benefits, including that it would improve understanding of what health and care cost, and enhance transparency about how our taxes are used. We think the natural basis for this tax would be current National Insurance, but we would suggest that this would need to be combined with a means of raising additional revenue in the short term, but will also consider the impact this would have on the devolved nations.  We are aware that the revenue raised in this way would be affected by changes in the business cycle and so appropriate adjustment and flexibility would be required.

 

These are our key conclusions to date. We will be exploring these issues further and setting out a longer list of recommendations in our final report.  In the meantime, we hope that this interim report outlines the direction we are taking and makes clear the scale of the challenge we are attempting to tackle.  We believe that our health and care services are the most essential safety nets our Government provides and that it is essential we safeguard them for generations to come. We encourage policy makers, of all views, to be prepared to think boldly and ambitiously about how we can achieve this.

 

 


  • Amna Ahmad
  • Dinesh Bhugra
  • Nick Bosanquet
  • Stephen Bubb
  • Peter Carter
  • Clare Gerada
  • Richard Kemp
  • Paul McCrone
  • Katherine Murphy
  • David Nicholson

 

 

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Liverpool Council – The Dodge City of UK Politics

LiverpoolGroup

There are only 4 Lib Dem councillors in Liverpool at the moment (but we can’t wait for elections to add to this). Every single one of us was name called and abused at the last meeting of the Council. Well done colleagues for standing firm!

I’ve been around as a councillor in Liverpool for a long time. With 34 years’ service in the bag I am easily the longest serving councillor here. I was also put in by the Audit Commission to inspect the worst urban councils and the IDeA to help repair them! As leader of the Lib Dems in Local Government for 7.5 years I was able to see all sorts of councils and all sorts of things. I can say in all honesty that I have never seen anything like the behaviour in the City Council generally and as exhibited at the council meeting on Wednesday.

When the council created the mayoralty in 2012 I warned, having seen other mayoral councils in England, that the system led to the creation of a ‘king’ with an attendant court of cronies and obsequious servants. It doesn’t have to be that way but it seemed to me inevitable that in a place like Liverpool that is what would happen. It has! All power goes back to one person – the Mayor. Councillors depend on him for patronage with no less than 34 of the 80 Labour councillors getting in a Special Responsibility Allowance. Officers seem to have lost their professional distance and increasingly do what they are told.

A superb example of this is my request to get information about the background for the Mayor’s offer to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. As I made clear I am in favour of the Games coming to Liverpool in 2026 and will do anything required to support it. BUT the offer has gone to the Government to host the 2022 Games. I can see no preparation for this; no report; no decision of Cabinet or Council. So not unreasonably I have asked for information about the potential costs and liabilities for this decision. A Commonwealth Games could cost up to £1 billion. No small change then!

I have been told by officers that I cannot have this information because it would breach commercial confidences.  What nonsense. When public money and actions are being bandied about councillors and through them the public have a right to know what they might end up being faced with. Of course I suspect I know why the Mayor is forbidding them to send me information. The answer is highly likely to be that there is no information. The Mayor has ‘gone off on one’ without any idea of the practicalities involved. But whether that is or is not true is irrelevant. Officers have a duty in their Code of Conduct to work for all councillors and cannot have their discretion limited by the controlling Party. Liverpool’s officers are failing in that respect and will be held answerable.

But all this pales into insignificance compared to the charade of a council meeting last Wednesday. Let me take you through it.

Firstly the Mayor gave a 40 minute presentation. The presentation was interesting but very misleading. It included some things were incorrect; the information given was partial and included only one side of the argument For example a long rant was given about the debts that the Mayor had to clear up when Labour took control of the Council. He totally forgot to tell his audience of nodding dog Labour members of the substantial balances that were in place to deal with them.

But Lib Dems sat through that. We also sat through the Green Party amendment. Frankly it was drivel so I spoke and in polite terms said why it was drivel.

Then all hell let loose when we started to move our amendment. Any amendment to the budget must be legal and must be certified by the Director of Resources (the section 151 officer) as being legal before it can be put. That certification had been given in writing to all Councillors. But that did not stop three points of order being raised about the legality of my amendment.

You may wonder why there was such appalling behaviour. It’s quite simple really. They always behave badly when we point out the falsehoods and the half-truths behind what they are doing. But this was very personal to them. What we were trying to do in our amendment was cut down the gravy train (or should it be gravy boat in a port!) which runs right through the council at present.

Liberal Democrats throughout the Liverpool City Region area believe that the election of a City Region Mayor on May 4th should change everything we do and how we do it. Liverpool has been the key council inside the City Region. That role will disappear when the new Mayor takes office. WE do not believe that we need the same number of chief officers as some of the functions move to the City Region. We do not believe we need as big a Cabinet or as many Select Committees, Mayoral Leads and all the other ways in which silence is rewarded within the council.

During my speech I was continually heckled and comments were made about me, my history and my record. When my colleague Cllr Juarez tried to speak to our amendment and raised the fact that since Christmas 3 homeless people had died on the streets of Liverpool and that Labour as the controlling party must take some responsibility she was howled down and could not continue her speech. She only raised this matter because of the vicious attack (one of two) on the Liverpool Echo for reporting these facts and drawing the public’s attentions to them.

My seconder our Deputy Leader, Cllr Andrew Makinson, was called a ‘slimeball’ by a Labour Cllr who is a former Lord Mayor when he raised the fact that officers had been buying sports cars with our taxes. This was widely reported in the Echo and never refuted by the Council or the officers named in the Echo report. When he tried to read out some of the comments made by members of the public in regard to the council tax setting he was interrupted by Labour moving “The question be put” and the vote being taken. Of course our standing orders make clear that such a request and vote can only be taken at the end of a speech and not during it.

But Poor Old Joe couldn’t contain himself any longer. From absolutely nowhere and for absolutely no related reason he shouted across the Council that I had sold a house in London for £850,000 which had been paid for by way of a grant from the Local Government Association. This is totally untrue! Mr Anderson has an anal obsession with my expenses and allowances from the LGA. Every single penny that I have ever had from the LGA or the Council or any other public body I have ever been on has been properly earned, claimed and accounted for. It can be seen on the website of the bodies on which I have served as are the terms and conditions under which I and other elected members serve.

At the January meeting the Mayor told the Council that LGA earnings were bungs which implied that they were illicit, illegal or immoral. That moved the Lord Mayor to observe that she too had, on that basis, been given ‘bungs’ because she was doing some work for the IDeA. In fact I understand that no less than 6 Labour Cllrs have also been getting ‘bungs’. One of the 6 is no less a person than the Mayor himself who for 3 years has taken a ‘bung’ as a member of the Cities Board of the LGA and is an approved peer of the IDeA and therefore eligible to do work for them.

Of course I don’t think that either I, the Lord Mayor, or the Mayor get ‘bungs’ we need to have a modicum of income and our expenses paid in order for us to be able to assist other councils and the local government movement as a whole.

The idea that anyone would have paid me enough for anything that would have enabled me to buy a house for £850,000 is laughable. I shall be dealing that in another way. We are consulting those people known in Private Eye as ‘My Learned Friends’ and are making complaints to our Standards Committee about the conduct of some Labour councillors. Time will see whether the Standards Committee agree with us.

In the meantime I do have a solution for clearing up Dodge City. Get more Lib Dems elected! There are no elections to the City Council this year. That’s sad because last year we had a major improvement in our vote in the City. Since then things have only got better for our Party. Our membership is three times what it was in Liverpool in May 2015. We have keen competition for people wishing to become councillors and are pulling in lots of small donations from the public and contributions from members. Next year our Council group will almost treble on our most pessimistic assessment and already Labour Cllrs are beginning to politically ‘dodge the bullet’ and leave the council before they are voted out.

Will you come and help us? Our City deserves better than this. In 1998 we took control of the worst council in the Country and delivered real change. What we did then we can do again. Come and join us. You can do so on our website www.libdems.org.uk. Or you can e-mail me at richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk or write to me at 16, Dovedale Road, Liverpool L18 1DW. Our City is a great place; too great to be left in the hands of this shower.

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Starting to put Liverpool’s Budget right

LpoolTH

Liverpool Town Hall which will not be the heart of intelligent discourse as we approach our budget meeting later on Wednesday afternoon

Today is Liverpool Council’s budget day. I will be moving a resolution on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Group which will not be carried. Our main thrust today is that we need to recognise the new realities of their being a new kid on the block. The election of a Liverpool City Region Mayor will change so many things. In particular it will change the pre-eminence of Liverpool Council as the body principally charged with moving the whole city region forward.

Of course, in our opinion Liverpool is the most important of the 6 councils in the LCR. What we do, especially in the City Centre, affects the whole of the conurbation. But the new Mayor will take over the leadership role which for the past five years has been exercised in practice by the Mayor of Liverpool.

Of course we believe that there is now one Mayor too many in Liverpool and the post of the City’s elected mayor should go. However that cannot really be done until 2020 unless the existing Mayor decides to stand down. We are making some financial savings suggestions today. We will be making further suggestions at the Annual meeting of the council in May.

Of course like any budget today only sets the direction for our work. Much depends on what we do and hwo we do it. That is why today we can only make a small amendment when what we really need is a full examination of how the Council works.

We are only allowed to move a financial amendment today so part 1 of this blog is the ‘Header’ to the amendment that we would like to have moved to a budget and a set of decisions from Labour which are more about gimmick than substance:

The principles behind what we will be saying:

Council notes that the City Council has been placed in a difficult financial position because of the failure of successive governments to reform the iniquitous council tax system and to recognise the demographic changes which are leading to people having longer but not necessarily healthier lives.

It notes that the response to this is an increasingly frantic selection of gimmicks which have been an attempt by the Labour Party the failure to make the best of the finances with which they have been granted.

It notes that:

  • The idea of a 10% council tax increase for the year 2018/19 was withdrawn in the face of considerable hostility from the people of Liverpool.
  • At the time this was withdrawn the mayor announced that an announcement would be made in January that money would be raised for social care through a lottery. No such announcement was made.
  • Instead that an announcement was made about the possibility of having council scratchcards although officers have yet to be asked to work this up into a proposition or a budget option.
  • The Mayor has recently announced that dog mess and fly tipping would be dealt with by asking members of the public to film, inform on and witness in court those who offend although officers have yet to be asked to work this up into a proposition or budget option.
  • That in Summer 2015 the Mayor announced that there would be no money to pay for parks from the end of March 2017 and that, fortunately, no budget option has yet to be presented to reduce parks spending.
  • That a large budget hit for the city’s libraries is proposed from financial year 2017/19.

It further notes that the current proposals for the rise in council tax by just under 5% when linked with the just under 4% increase last year means that council tax will have increased by approximately 9% in two years. It notes that this is almost twice the increase in state pensions; more than twice the increase in average private sector earnings and more than 4 times the average increase in public sector earnings in that time. It the notes that the further increase proposed in this forward forecast is just under 5% giving a rise over three years of just over 14% which far exceeds any increase in benefit, wage or salary in that period.

It recognises that the Election of a City Region Mayor in May this year changes the role of this council from being first amongst equals at the heart of the City Region to one of 6 equivalent authorities.

Lastly it notes that it is likely that there will be a further deterioration in public and therefore council finances as a result of the BREXIT vote last June.

Accordingly it resolves:

  • To seek external help to look at the future of the library service in the modern age given the move to computer based reading systems but recognising he need to provide places where people can learn to love and use effectively the written and spoken word
  • To seek external help in looking at models by which the Parks of the city could be maintained with less costs and more income as a major assets for the communities of the City.

The technical amendment that I will actually move is this:

Liberal Democrat Budget Amendment

To be moved by Cllr Richard Kemp and seconded by Cllr Andrew Makinson

  1. That the establishment of the Council’s staff be varied by:

The merging of the Posts of Adult and Children’s Services

The merging of the posts of Chief Executive and Director of Regeneration

Creating a realisable saving of £275,000 in 2017/18

2.  The elimination of car leasing arrangements for Executive Directors and Assistant Executive Directors by eliminating them entirely when any current arrangements cease and their replacement with a mileage system based on the use of their own car on council business.

Creating a realisable saving of £15,000 in 2017/18

  1. That reductions be made in the costs of t he Mayor’s office by 50%

Presenting a realisable saving of £76,000 in 2017/18

And that the resultant saving of £366,000 be used to reduce council tax in 2017/18 and thereafter to provide a new council tax level of £1,508.07 at Band D for the year 2017/18

Tiny steps but it’s all we can do today. Watch this space for our amendments at the Annual Meeting in May

In addition and outside of the specific budget objection the following proposals to make reductions under the Allowances Scheme be submitted for consideration by the Independent Remuneration Panel and any recommendations reported back to the City Council AGM–

 Allowance for the Office of Elected Mayor and on costs of 50% – £44,500

 Special Responsibility Allowance for Cabinet Members and on costs by 20% – £22,600

 Special Responsibility Allowance for Mayoral leads and on costs by 20% – £19,600.”

 

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