The Caller Report didn’t get everything right

The Caller Report gets so many things right but is lamentably weak on elements which relate to democracy and the work of Councillors.

I wrote recently to Max Caller the Lead Inspector for the recent Best Value Inspection which exposed so many dangerous and serious failings inside our Council systems and political leadership. Much of what he said was absolutely spot but as a democrat I believe that much of what he said in regard to the democratic system to be followed in Liverpool will be seriously damaging to the work that Councillors can do and their work within the communities.

Liberal Democrats will meet on Sunday to consider who our Group leadership will be and how to respond to the recommendations that the Chief Executive has laid out in the Council summons in a draft format for our consideration. We have yet to decide our full response but clearly have serious disquiet about the proposals relating to democracy.

Our basic problem is that Caller fails to provide any evidence to support his assertions that moving to a smaller council with single members wards having elections on a four-yearly basis would actually improve things. This is hardly surprising because there is no such evidence. I have scoured the LGA files, academic studies and think tank reports and I all find is the same assertions that are in the Caller Report but not a shred of evidence that changes such as those proposed have improved the work of councillors either inside the Council or inside their communities.

Basically, Caller’s contention which is effectively that the way to deal with improper political processes is to reduce democratic accountability between elected representatives and their electors, is clearly unfounded and meritless. He has made no attempt to justify it other than to say that this is the trend and it is what Ministers want.

Some of his assertions are wrong;

  1. Despite the fact that he had to change his report to Parliament over the Mayoralty he has failed to think through the consequences of that. Liverpool Council does not need a referendum on the Mayoralty. It could choose to have one but could also choose to take the decision itself after a full consultation with the people and businesses of Liverpool on the four options which are available to it. Let’s not forget that a free-standing referendum will cost the council at least £500. Money which we believe could be better spent.
  • In all the areas which have gone to unitary 4 yearly elections there is also a substantial parish or Town Council system. It is true that about half of these rely on co-options as much as elections to fill their seats but all of the larger councils are fully contested often as vigorously as elections to principal councils.

Caller fails to acknowledge the fact that however they get there they are a vital safety and support mechanism if the single member situation which he proposes results in a system where that member is ill, pregnant or for other reasons such as taking a major council role, is unable to fully service the needs of constituents.

In all my 38 years as a Councillor I have had to be a county, district and parish councillor. I can do this because I have always been able to share the work with my two colleagues to cover both ward and council work.

  • Mr Caller claims that some unspecified research in some unspecified area has shown that some people like having one councillor because they know who that is. Where was this research conducted? Who by? What was the sample base? Did it compare the new system with the old one in terms of electoral knowledge or any other facet of governance?
  • As a believer in evidence-based policy making I cannot accept that we should do things because a Government Minister wants us to. This is a Government which is mired in corruption, where the Secretary of State himself had to apologise for an illegal decision based on a desire to support a Tory donor and where the Queens Speech only yesterday took steps to discourage voting in a way that can only be described as Trump-like.

I liked most of the Caller report. As a former Chief Executive of a Council he understands the nuts and bolts of how councils should work. He clearly showed up the manifest failings of what is wrong in our City Council. Much of what he asked the Council to do is common sense and will simply return us to the good governance which pertained when the Lib Dems left office in 2010. However, none of the three Inspectors have ever been on the democratic side of the Council and frankly that showed up in your report. Audit Commission Inspections always included an experienced Councillor to ensure a full understanding of all processes. Regrettably yours failed to.

The Liberal Democrats have yet to finalise our final position for next week’s Council Meeting but we clearly will not be supporting the attempts to stifle democracy and due process in the democratic systems of checks and balances in the City. Democrat is in our name and democracy is in our heritage. We will fight for it whenever we are needed to and whenever we can.

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England – a tale of two Countries after last weeks elections

Lib Dems did well but not brilliantly last week. But every Party has to considrer how it moves forward on a mixed bag of results

In my last blog I talked about my views on the Liverpool elections and in this one I have a look at the national picture.

It’s very clear to me that politics is working in very different ways in different parts of the Country. At the end of Saturday, the Lib Dems were marginally down on the number of seats which we were defending. 34 net losses which, as ever, revealed a tumult of wins and losses but the direction was clear.

By Sunday night, when all the results were in, the picture have become a small net gain of 7 and 1 council gained. The difference clearly appears to be based on where the votes were being counted. On days one and two most of the council votes were in urban areas in the North. On the second they tended to be countiesand districts in the South.

If we look at our Party’s seat share, we made marginal losses in the North of England although there were places like Liverpool, Durham and Barnsley where we took a small number of seats from Labour and moved slowly forward. These tended to be areas outside the so-called red wall areas where Lib Dem numbers have always been relatively small. The North West, in part, followed this trend with Labour suffering minimal losses in the region and in all the mayoral elections doing well.

In the South of England, however, we did rather well. In fact, by my tally not only did we advance in places like Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire we did so partly by knocking off Tory Council Leaders. In these councils and others like Wiltshire we may well play a role in leadership of these Councils for the first time in 20+ years.

It was particularly nice to see our numbers double on the Greater London Assembly. Where the first Moslem Woman on that authority, Hina Bokhari, was elected alongside our long-standing member Caroline Pidgeon.

So, we fought to a draw but what happened to the other Parties?

The Greens did well but in pockets. With one exception, Bristol, they are nowhere near to running a Council and how well they did depended on local circumstances. Significantly, they did well in no areas where the Lib Dems are clearly the main opposition to Labour. They made only marginal advances in University areas like Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Liverpool which were once thought to be their natural breeding grounds.

The Tories did well but not as well as the Tory media has proclaimed! The tone was set by their stonking win in Hartlepool and on day one with gains in the so-called red wall seats. Overall, they gained just over 200 seats whereas on Saturday night the number was nearer. This was a good figure but how much of this was a Vaccination bounce remains to be seen.

The undoubted losers of the elections were the Labour Party. I am advising our Group on Durham where Labour lost control buy a large margin in a Country which has voted Labour since it was formed more than 100 years ago. In total Labour lost 326 councillors and control of a number of councils. It should not be that way. Main opposition parties are supposed to advance against the Government not lose seats both to it and every other Party.

Already Keir Starmer has responded by a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle and a sacking of the Party Chair. None of this has any resonance with the people outside the political bubble. Perhaps the time is coming when the cracks in Labour are so great that the factions cannot be contained in one Party.

In my Party’s reflections we should consider long and hard that maxim that we have long adopted – where we work, we win. The modest advances that we have made nationally were built on years of hard work and commitment to our communities. That needs an overlay of national messaging. People have no clear national messaging from us which complicates our work in creating strong local messaging.

Lib Dems should not be complacent. I think we did relatively well last Thursday but relatively well isn’t good enough. I think we need to restructure how we target the winnable chances that we have. To often we spend our resources on vainglorious battles without strongly targeting the ‘long march’ candidates and battles which do eventually lead to electoral success.

Now, in good Lib Dem tradition, I am off to write a Thank You Focus. As we always say in our Party, “The election isn’t over until the Thank You Focus is delivered”. In Liverpool we have a lot to thank the electorate for.

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2021 – We did well but hoped to do better

Our expanded team of 12 Councillors will be able to hold the Labour administration to account for their actions and to continue our fight to bring decency and efficiency back into Liverpool Council

A number of independent commentators have looked at the election results with a huge amount of naivety and concluded that May 6th was a wasted opportunity for the Lib Dems who should have done better. Of course, we wanted to do better but people always forget that in Liverpool an election is a David v Goliath battle every year and I am afraid Goliath usually wins! I’ll return to that but first how well did the Lib Dems actually do? This was our best year since 2010. For the last three elections we have returned 3 councillors each year sometimes with very small majorities. This time we doubled this to 6 and all of them had big majorities:

WardCouncillorVote%age of vote%age majority
Allerton & Hunts CrossMirna Juarez2,24450.2617.76
ChildwallPat Moloney2,32954.6827.14
ChurchAndrew Makinson3,08059.1234.95
CressingtonRichard Clein2,44849.4515.43
Mossley HillRob McAlister-Bell2,16046.9514.13
WooltonMalcolm Kelly2,08146.6218.95

On these results alone we have three more gains coming along next year which will be very hard for Labour to fight off given the scale of the swing required and where, in two wards, we now have hard working campaigners, now councillors, who will be able to use their position as councillors to do more and to get more done.

In addition, there’s more good news from other wards. We had a good result in Wavertree where our youngest candidate, Rebecca Turner achieved 29.39% of the vote and in Speke/Garston old hand Peter Millea received 17.86% of the vote trebling last years vote from a very late standing start. In fact, the Lib Dem vote went up in all except one ward throughout the City.

We are not 100% sure that there will be elections next year because of the Caller Report but if we do, we go in with realistic optimism about even bigger gains during the year.

Contrast that with the other opposition Parties. The Greens last made a break through in 2014 when they went to four councillors and have stayed there ever since. They hoped for two gains and got none. The Liberal Party last made a gain outside Tuebrook more than 20 years ago. As an aside their national tally of councillors is just 8 having lost a seat in Peterborough.

But let’s go back to the naivety! The Labour Party has a major advantage in terms of personnel and money over the other Parties. They have 5 MPs and 20 staff. Many of those staff are part time and spend the rest of the time as councillors. They are, in reality, paid to be full time councillors often undertaking case and legitimate campaigning work in their own wards for their own MP.

Their funding is also much superior to ours. More councillors mean more contributions from councillors to campaigning. They have full time staff at a local and regional level. They have access to union funds. They have more wards that they consider to be safe so that they can move their activists about more than we have been able to.

In our case we don’t have a single member of staff. Everything is done by hard working volunteers who often work ludicrous hours. At least we have own well equipped HQ. Every penny we spend has to come from our Councillors who pay for their own none-election literature and our members who donate generously to our election campaigns. Only now that we have three very safe wards have we been able to move activists around. Success is breeding success. We now have more activists and more donations than for many a year and I am sure that this will increase again as we are in two more wards but we will still have a huge resource deficit compared to Labour. The good news is that we work harder!!

Our councillors will have more influence than at any time over the past decade for three reasons. Firstly, our team has grown in experience. Our newbies have picked up the skills and knowledge required to get around the Council and play a greater role. Secondly, more councillors means more seats on committees and more opportunities to question and hold the Cabinet and Officers to account. Thirdly, the Caller Report has shown us that the scrutiny function as a whole needs to be shared more evenly across the Council with opposition councillors taking a greater role.

If you follow the gist of his recommendations a Lib Dem should become Chair of the independent Audit Committee which will work outside the normal party political and Cabinet activities and report direct to Council and decides its own internal and external audit work programmes. On all committees there should be a Controlling or opposition member chairing or deputy chairing in partnership.

We have clear ideas on improvement and have already made a number of suggestions about things that need to be done and where they need to be done. We have discussed these with Caller and Officers and suspect that many of them will be in the improvement plan which will be published next week and in changes to the Council’s Constitution which will go to the Annual Meeting on 6th May.

All this will be played out in two public theatres:

  1. There are still 6 police investigations ongoing and I am sure that there will be more arrests, including possibly of other Labour Councillors, and that charges will be laid and court cases held. This will continue to play heavily on the public perception of the Council and will mean that the public will be watching us like hawks.
  2. The Commissioners will be in with more eagle eyes watching what we do. They will be people who are skilled at local government work and will ensure that we cannot move away from best practice.

So, all in all Liverpool has moved into a new era for a variety of reasons. Liverpool Lib Dems are bigger and better equipped than for a decade to work for our communities, our City and our Party. We shall leave no stone unturned in our continued battle to fight corruption and waste and bring competence and efficiency into the Council.

But for Liverpool Liberal Democrats the best is still to come!!

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Let’s throw the ‘bloody bookshelf’ at Labour on Thursday

Line of Duty may be coming to an end but the fight against corruption, waste and incompetence in Liverpool is sure to have another series!!

As Line of Duty’ winds to an end today we can be sure that there is at least another series being planned in Liverpool’s fight against corruption, waste and incompetence.

By 19th May the Council has to prepare its response to the damning and shaming Caller Report which revealed for all to see the incompetence waste and corruption of Liverpool’s Labour Council. Money and contracts given without due process to mates and relatives. High quality property developers turned away to allow a series of improperly financed developments which have fleeced investors globally out of hundreds of £millions; huge bills for the public sector to pick up the failed sites; roads shoddily repaired and needing doing again; worthwhile projects such as that for the esteemed Blackburne House side-lined and ignored.

So that’s one side of things. On the other we still have 6 ongoing police investigations. 16 arrests have been made of 15 people on potential charges relating to bribery, corruption, witness intimidation and malfeasance in public office but I am sure that there will be more to come. One senior officer has been summarily dismissed with possibly more to come. Other Labour councillors, officers and contractors have been visited. I suspect that by the end of June more people will have been arrested, formal charges will be laid and the process of resolving the matters through the Courts will be finally started.

Recovery will not be easy. I can set some of the things we need to do going within minutes of being elected Mayor and more within days. It will take time to bring them to fruition. It will take even longer to put right the damage to Liverpool’s reputation that has been caused by the national and global bad publicity. It took 20 years to recover from the Militant area of the 1980s. That cost the City jobs, investment and opportunity.

Only when the Lib Dems under Mike Storey started to get Council Tax down did people feel more confident in the Council. Only when the Lib Dems applied for and then gained European Capital of Culture status for 2008 did people from outside start getting confidence in the City as a whole. That led to tens of thousands of jobs and huge investment in our City Centre and infrastructure.

I’ve talked to thousands of people in the last 6 weeks. If there are two words which sum up the opinions of the majority they would be anger and sadness. Real anger over the fact that people have lost £917+ in a waste of money that could have gone either to keep tax down or to provide better services. Real sadness that under Labour the old jokes such as, ‘watch your hubcaps there’s a Scouser about’, have started up again.

 I know that lots of people have already decided to switch to our Lib Dem team and many have already voted. By Tuesday more than 17,000 postal votes had already been returned. Given that only about 100,000 votes are expected to be cast that means that 17% of the vote was already in. Postal votes are likely to account for 40% of the total votes counted. Many of them have been cast for us as I discovered as I canvassed in Wavertree and Allerton & Hunts Cross yesterday.

My team has gone further than we have been able to for years as money has been donated and volunteers have turned up demanding work to do. As of yesterday, we had been out in 28 wards – I have been out in 18 of them – which is a huge contrast with 2015 when we had to put most of our effort into successfully defending just one seat – mine!

I just don’t know how high our boat will float but I do know that we will have more influence in the Council next year than we have had this year. Every Lib Dem Councillor elected will strive to bring about good governance, abolish waste and ensure transparency in everything that we do.

Time and time again I have been told, “It has to be you Richard. You’re the only one with the experience to turn things around”. Many of those who listened in to the 4 hustings have been appalled that they have largely been a policy free zone – especially from the Tory who hasn’t turned up to one of them! Pious platitudes from well-meaning amateurs will not rescue our City from its woes and restore confidence in our Council and our City.

It’s not only me but a whole team of Lib Dems with the ability, knowledge and skills to put our City right. Our offer to you is simple. Lend us your vote on Thursday and we will make huge changes to the way our City is run so we can send the Tory Commissioners back down to London a year early. We will have the elections for a new full council in 2023 secure in the knowledge that our City is back on track to achieve wonderful things for our people.

Or, as they say more simply on Line of Duty, “then we’ll be sucking diesel!”

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Let the Bodies Pile High

Boris Johnson and Joe Anderson are really mirror images of each other. Both are mired in sleaze, both have had improper contacts with contractors, developers and suppliers. The solution to both is simple – vote them out and change system.

Did Boris Johnson say this? Did he say something like it? The jury is out but there is mounting evidence from within the Tory Party that he did indeed say it. The problem that Johnson has in denying it is that most of the people of the UK can well imagine him saying it because of his background. An Old Etonian, Oxford and Bullingdon Club person. A father who bends the law repeatedly. A man who is known to wing it and do anything to get elected and get what he wants. A man in whom self-entitlement is manifest and looks down at most of as mere chavs. Yes, we can imagine him saying it.

If the question had been raised about John Major or even Theresa May we would have been far more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. Yes, they are Tories but most of us believe that they had a strong element of self-deprecating decency inside them and sense of loyalty and dedication to the people of the Country.

All this comes on top of a huge number of allegations about the Tory Party most centred around the Prime Minister. Who paid for the fitting out of his flat at Number 10, which Tory donor had access to which Tory Minister; how did James Dyson have the PM’s phone number; why did we spend £20 million with him to develop a new ventilator (which he was unable to do) instead of giving contracts to existing UK manufacturers of ventilators? Why has so much been given to companies like SERCO who have made a complete mess of ‘track and trace’ whilst not funding properly the NHS which has done most of the hard tracing work?

Ironically, for Liverpool, the man responsible for ‘putting right’ our City Council, Robert Jenrick, himself is tainted with sleaze. He tried, against official advice, to bend planning rules for a Tory donor which would have deprived Southwark Council, by any stretch of the imagination an area in need of money, of due planning gain cash. A mistake he had to both rectify and apologise for.

It has been interesting to me to see that what is happening in London has been replicated at a lower level here in Liverpool. Contracts and development opportunities have clearly been awarded at ‘mates rates’ to a charmed circle of developers and contractors. People had the Mayor’s phone number and could make a direct approach to him about contracts and opportunities. His influence caused officers to skip due process for care of the Council’s income and assets and ensure that the ‘right’ answer was given.

There is a huge similarity into how this has happened. Arrogance and self-conviction that the people at the top must always be right. They then surround themselves with crawlers who will do anything to remain in the favour of the one with the power. Proper overview and scrutiny of decisions is removed and the ‘Wild West’ prevails. A further similarity is that the best way to deal with these people is simple. Either let the law deal with them or just vote them out of office!

I can’t talk about Westminster but I can talk about Liverpool. I have never known such anger in Liverpool in all the years that I have been a councillor here. I have called at 100s of doors in the past 4 weeks and people are very, very angry about what has happened here. Yesterday alone I was told by 4 Labour MEMBERS that they would be voting for me because, although they still considered themselves to be Labour, there was no way that they could support Labour in Council or regional elections here.

So many Labour voters are either going to vote Lib Dem, many of them for the first time, or not vote at all. They know that £100,000,000+ has gone missing; they know that there are 16 people arrested on suspicion of a wide range of potential charges including witness intimidation, bullying, bribery and malfeasance in public office; they know that  outside the Council £100s of millions have been lost by small private investors from around the World who invested in dodgy schemes because of their belief that Liverpool was a good place to invest.

Knowing what is wrong is not enough. We need to know what to do about these problems. In principle these solutions are very simple:

  1. Be open and transparent
  2. Obey the law
  3. Properly record everything
  4. Have a proper system of scrutiny of the politicians and officers who make the key decisions.
  5. Have a medium- and long-term vision for the City in the post-Brexit and post- pandemic world.

Lots of people who have watched the mayoral hustings have told me that they think that there is a huge policy vacuum in what is being presented to the people of the City with only the Lib Dems having a  detailed manifesto and showing the competence and capacity to deliver the needed change.

That is not my decision to make but the decision of the people of Liverpool. Lots of people have already voted by post. I understand that they have been flooding back to the Cunard building and lot’s of people have told me in the past three days that I was wasting my time at their door as their vote for me was already in.

If you haven’t voted yet you will see that the ballot paper looks a bit different this year. You have two votes. One column is for your first choice and the other is for your second choice. The second will come into play if no candidate gets 50% of the vote on the first-time round. Anderson only got 52% of the vote last time and Labour will get a lot less than that this time. So those second votes will be important.

I know that lots of you have already done the calculation and thought through that I am the most likely candidate to beat Labour so have put me as their first choice. But whatever you do put me as your second so that will be added to my vote on the second ballot.

Together we can return the real political power to the people that it belongs to YOU and your neighbours. We politicians have no power of our own – we just have the power that voters choose to lend to us. Use your power to change the people and the system on May 6th.

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Climate change Demands Action and Not Words

What we do as an individual and what we do as a City can have a major impact on our local environment. Both the Council and the people of Liverpool need to do more to safeguard our envronment and contribute to the global action on climate change.

One of the most important issues facing our City, our Country and the World is the question of climate change. I don’t know about you but I have been tremendously encouraged by the leadership being set by Joe Biden since he became President of the USA. Even the curmudgeonly UK Prime Minister Johnson has had to follow in his footsteps.

It would be easy to think that because the global politicians are now belatedly coming to action before the COP meeting in Scotland later this year that we can sit back and watch it happen. Nothing could be further from the truth. We all must take positive actions to reduce climate change both as individuals and as a City. To my mind one of the problems of having to respond quickly to the internal problems of the Council has meant that we have been unable to look properly at the long needs of the climate problems.

Liverpool’s track record is not good. Poor recycling rates; illegal levels of air pollution; cycle lanes slapped up without due consideration of where cyclists want to go; bus lanes chopped; new traffic schemes that will drive people onto cars and fuel pollution. There is much that Liverpool needs to do quickly.

There is also much that it needs to do in the long term. We held two council meetings in September 2020 and January 2021 when the Lib Dems tried to set out a new path for Liverpool post-Brexit and post-Covid. On both occasions Labour voted against our motions with no coherent explanation as to why.

We need to review our City Plan which sets out our short, medium, and long-term proposals for the City. We then need to review the Local Development Framework which establishes the land uses and transport patterns needed to deliver that plan.

We look at the environment in some detail in our manifesto for the elections. You can see environment concerns running through the manifesto not only in a clear environment section but also in the sections about transports and parks which have huge environmental possibilities or threats.

You can access the manifesto here:

www.liverlibdems.org.uk.

Too much of what the Council has been doing is empty rhetoric on this issue. We solemnly declared a climate change emergency then took six months to establish a committee and work streams. To this day some 2 years later the Council has failed to call a meeting of one of these work streams. The Labour Cabinet Member appointed, Laura Robertson-Collins, has resigned in disgust about the Lime Street road change works.

As always we have set out a clear manifesto for change in this and others areas. You can see the key points which we would be delighted to discuss with you. As always, my email address is richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk

Our Overriding Principle:

Liverpool is a major global city and as such has a duty and need to address climate change.

Our Overriding Policy:

To work with our partners in Liverpool, with other Council and City regions and their partners on a series of long term and sustainable solutions to address and limit the effects of climate change.

Background:

With predicted average global temperature increases of 1.5°C, changes in rainfall patterns (warmer wetter winters), rise in sea levels and loss of biodiversity. Recent reports suggest that we have only 12 years in which to make dramatic changes to reduce our carbon emissions and 2 years to reverse the current decline in biodiversity loss.

Our Six to Fix:

  1. We will encourage and support renewable electricity generation, through onshore and offshore wind farms and a sensitively designed Mersey Power Generation.
  2. We will invest in an active travel infrastructure and quality well connected public transport. Including the creation of segregated cycle paths, well maintained footpaths/pavements and pedestrian crossings.
  3. We will support electric vehicles by installation of publicly accessible on-street charging points (specifically for terrace housing areas). Ensure all council vehicles where possible are electric.
  4. We will help improve existing properties energy efficiency with insulation, either by assisting energy companies in identifying fuel poor or vulnerable households or retrofitting council-owned properties. Enforce minimum energy efficiency standards in the private rental sector.
  5. We will monitor air pollution across the city and plant more trees and plants with a wide variety of species including flowering plant) both on parkland and in urban areas, being innovative with where plants can be grown such as bus stop roof tops, grass verges etc. Introduce phased (or smart) traffic lights to improve traffic flow efficiency and improve air pollution. Our aim will be to become a bee friendly city. Our mission is to create habitats for honey bees and all pollinators to thrive.
  • We will introduce more curb side recycling, including kitchen and food waste linking this if feasible into biogas production. Regarding plastic waste support a refund system for returning plastic bottles to retailers, install free public, water fountains.
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Who should run Liverpool’s Parks? – You should!

These are just some of the people who gathered together in 2015 to save part of Calderstones Park from being built on by Redrow Joe. Now Lib Dems believe that they should be involved much more in the running of parks and, if they wish, take over their management.

The current discussions about who authorised the 5k ticketed festival in Sefton Park brings into stark relief the question, “Who should run Liverpool’s Parks and for whom should they be run?”

My answer to this is very simple. I believe that whilst the Parks should always remain owned by the Council in perpetuity, with safeguards as to their future, the Parks should be managed or led by the people who use them and the community that they are in.

We have really seen the value of our parks in the pandemic. You’ve almost had to queue to get into Sefton and Calderstones Park on some days. Its been absolutely marvellous to see families walking and cycling together and finding it increasingly possible to do as restrictions get lifted.

Parks are so very important for our health both mental and physical. Before the pandemic struck, I was working with the Reader Organisation and the local community on proposals to increase the use of Calderstones Park using money from the NHS available though social prescribing and other methods.

People who use the parks are fit in part because they use the parks. They are active, tend to have healthier life styles and take the exercise that is so vital for our bodies.

They also tend to have that most important of health indicators, more important than any tonic, people to talk to and interact with. This is so important for people’s mental health. Loneliness and the lack of social interaction is a literal killer which has an effect on the body which is the equivalent of 15-20 cigarettes a day.

So much good work is done by our Parks Friends Groups. I know best the groups which work in Calderstones Park where three bodies, The Friends of the Park; Calderstones CIC and the Reader Organisation work with each other to provide a range of activities. The CIC got a £20,000 grant and using volunteers with some specialist paid support have transformed the old, derelict depot into a wildlife haven. The Friends raise money to provide new tress and to repair other amenities such as broken fountains which give people so much pleasure. The Reader uses the Park creatively as part of its work reaching out to a variety of other groups.

It’s not just in the South where this community interaction works effectively. I look to Walton Hall Park where the community also fought off one of Joe Anderson’s redevelopment schemes. The work that they do is incredible. The park is kept spic and span through their efforts and all sorts of things happen there because they take the initiative. Regrettably, only too often in the past they have had to fight the Council on issues such as parking instead being able to be the Council’s partner.

So, let’s go back to the Sefton Park issue. About 5 years when the sell off of part of Calderstones Park to Redrow was mooted we did a survey of park users. They made it clear that they thought that there were all sorts of things that the Park could do. Classical and folk music festivals on a small scale were some of them. They then thought that the Park could host more craft and produce fairs, be used to help people understand how to grow and then cook food; they wanted more work to be done with the Reader to bring into the Park disadvantaged groups.

The important point being that if they managed the Park they could do three things:

  1. Establish events that the community would welcome and not regret. That gives important community led buy in so unlike the high-handed approach of the Council in Sefton Park; and
  2. They can bring in money from a range of funders that the Council couldn’t apply for.
  3. They can then motivate volunteers to come in and do things in a way that a statutory body such as a Council just cannot do.

There is still a need for Council involvement and particularly for the local councillors for the area in which the Park is situated. The Council can bring to the table some of the big players in the City such as the NHS, universities and colleges who can then get involved in a range of small projects on a park by park basis.

The other side of our review looked at who didn’t use the Park and we found more important lessons. If you are overweight or lonely you may find the idea of walking or jogging quite daunting. This problem disappeared quickly for many if they had someone to go out with. That’s why we want to establish walking groups and jogging groups and post-operative recovery groups to initially get things going and then allow natural and sustainable relationships to develop.

Our parks do need more income because they are slowly but surely deteriorating. Paths are getting dangerous; basic facilities are falling apart and the parks generally need some investment which is highly unlikely to come from the Council in our currently straitened circumstances.

Local involvement can bring in ideas, volunteers and cash to restore our parks to their full glory and put them at the heart of the communities to which they should truly belong.

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Let’s create a fairer Liverpool

Faith, colour and sexuality should not matter but they do. We need policies and attitudes that will address inequalities and give everyone a good chance of a good life

One of the reasons that I joined the Liberal Party, as we were then, 54 years ago was because liberals believe passionately in internationalism and in true equality of opportunity. We don’t care about the colour of a person’s skin but about the colour of their heart. We don’t care about people’s faith as long as they don’t seek to inflict it on others. We don’t care about people’s sexuality but hope that their sexuality is expressed within mutually loving relationships.

As Liberal Democrats we believe that “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity” and that the “role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives”. There is a specific need to ensure that women and people from LGBTQ+ and BAME communities and those with disabilities are not left behind in our City.

To look at repression in wider terms we can see a huge waste of resource as we fail to engage a significant element of our population in activity, social or economic which could benefit society. This is played out with individuals and communities unable to establish a meaningful life because they cannot develop their own potential.

I value difference. A popular song of the 60s set the aim of creating, “khaki coloured people by the score”. This was a time when a Saturday night favourite was the ‘Black and White Minstrel Show’ when white men blacked up to sing American slave songs. I don’t want us to be khaki coloured I want our City to be diverse. I want people to be comfortable in their own skins and the rest to be respectful of lifestyle choices that others make. I love being able to go from a Yam Festival from Nigeria to Chinese national events within three miles of each other in our own City.

So below is the extract from our manifesto, Demand Better, which deals with these issues. You will find parts of our responses to sexual and racial issues in other pats of our manifesto as well. We believe that we are the “World in One City” and we must ensure that Liverpool is a great place to live for all people who care about our City. Our manifesto can be accessed at http://www.liverlibdems.org.uk

Our Overriding Policy

Our overriding policy is to ensure that the Council and all decision makers are aware of the issues that affect BAME communities, women, those from LGBTQ+ especially trans communities and those  with disabilities  living in Liverpool today. These issues range across all spheres from health to housing and from education to social care and must be embraced by all players within our City.

Background:

Liverpool is a City with high levels of inequality based on faith, colour, ethnicity, disability and sexuality. Liverpool will only achieve its full capacity as a City if all individuals within the City can achieve their full capacity. These existing problems have been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic resulting in higher infection rates, hospitalisation and death. It has also had a particular effect on the employment opportunities for these communities in the post-Covid era.

Our Six to Fix

  1. We will lead by example. Our Council Group currently has a 50:50 gender balance. We will put in place actions to ensure that continues and to help women develop their potential in leadership positions within the Council. We will work across all spheres within the council and the key employers in the city such as the NHS, the Police, and the Universities to positively promote women into employment and key positions within those organisations.
  • We will further develop existing partnerships with organisations and groups that currently provide services for BAME and LGBTQ+ communities, women and those with disabilities  in Liverpool to understand the work that is currently being achieved in the city and coordinate activities. We will ensure that those partnerships will be given a place in all decision-making processes in order that their expertise can be incorporated in all public sector organisations.
  • We will appoint an Equalities Champion to ensure that the Council and its partners observe equal opportunities policies in the appointment of staff at all levels and in the policies and programmes that they create throughout the City.
  • We will conduct an audit of all public sector organisations in the City to review the position of women in senior management positions and on controlling Boards. We will then publish lists of those organisations highlighting good and poor performances in terms of gender balance at a senior level.
  • We will work with the Council’s public health department, the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, the Liverpool Royal University Hospital and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to promote both policies and practices which will assist the specific physical and mental health issues faced by women and members of BAME, LGBTQ+ communities and those with disabilities.
  • We will promote policies both within the Education Service and voluntary sector to address youth issues such as period poverty, racial and gender stereotyping and bullying.
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Why haven’t more Labour Councillors resigned?

If Cllr Robertson-Collins and Cllr Leon Tootle can do the decent thing and resign why can’t more of them?

On Tuesday a precedent was set which I hope will be followed by other Labour Councillors in Liverpool. Cllr Robertson-Collins resigned as Cabinet member for the Environment and Climate Change on Tuesday in protest at Labour’s plans for the Strand and Lime Street. One could be churlish to point that she voted for them both and they are almost complete at a cost of some £90 million.

I often don’t agree with Laura but I do recognise that she is a woman or tremendous integrity and honour. I noted recently that she and Cllr James Roberts in her Greenbank Ward have been the only Labour Councillors that I have seen who have apologised to the people of Liverpool for the problems highlighted in the Caller report and being investigated by the Police. She is someone I could work with and I know that when she says something, I might not always agree with it but she is enunciating a well thought out argument from her political perspective.

Cllr Leon Tootle has stood down from the Council after the Caller Report showed that the audit functions of the Council, for which he was responsible, just were not working.

So, what of the rest of them?

It seems to me that there are three other lots of people who should be considering their position as Councillors given what has been revealed.

Firstly, anyone who has been Deputy Mayor since 2012, step forward Cllrs Brant, O’Byrne and Simon. As Deputy Mayor they are the number two in the political side of the organisation. I repeat the questions that I have already asked of them but which they have all failed to answer:

  • Did you know what was going on in regeneration? If so, what did you do about it?
  • If you didn’t know why didn’t you, given your position of huge power and influence?

Deputy Mayors are well paid. About £42,000 in total. That is more than 1.5 times the median wage on Merseyside. For that much cash they should have been putting the hours in! They should have made it their full time job.

Secondly, anyone who held the post of Cabinet Member for Regeneration. This is a little bit complicated because different parts of the regeneration work have come under different cabinet members with different titles. I think there are 6 in all. Again, we can ask the same questions as raised above. Again, we can point out the more than adequate payments that they get of about £27k per year which is a reasonable wedge to oversee one department.

Thirdly, most of the people who have been ‘Mayoral Leads’. I say most because some of them, I think particularly of Jane Corbett who is a passionate advocate for fairness and equality, have earned their money. Others seem to have had no job description and done very little. It seems that they were paid to watch Joe’s back and be loyal supporters rather than true advocates of their topic.

Perhaps, we should then ask all of Liverpool’s Labour Councillors to do the honourable thing! Did they know what was going on; did they like getting any of the other 18 paid posts which the Mayor dished out to his favourites? Could they really not understand what was happening? Those who have wards like Kirkdale, Central and Everton must surely have seen the evidence of corruption which are the stalled sites in their area.

As part of the Improvement Plan that I am recommending we adopt to respond to the Caller Report I have put a great emphasis on systems and training. Too many councillors have little understanding of the way the Council works. In a way that’s understandable. The Council is a complex operation with about 10,000 staff and a gross budget in the order of £1 billion a year when you add in all the income and specific and general grants that we get in addition to what we bill to our residents and businesses in the form of taxation.

But ignorance is not bliss. Not knowing isn’t good enough. Some councillors will say, “I don’t understand all that sort of thing I’m just there to represent my ward”. That answer just isn’t good enough. They get paid, at minimum, £10,500 a year to act as the equivalent of None-Executive Directors. They get paid to make decisions which affect every single person in Liverpool. If they don’t know how the system worked, they need to find out pronto.

That might then leave a major question for all the Parties on the Council. How do we ensure that the people we put up are both competent and committed? How do we monitor their performance in their ward, committee and Council? This is a relatively easy job for me with a small group of 10 all of whom are highly committed to their ward, our cause and the City.

However, we are already putting in place actions to ensure that we get the right people into place with the right support and commitment. In the past when we were a big group, we made some of the same mistakes that Labour have made, although no-one ever accused us of corruption or Malfeasance in Public Office.

If elected as the Council’s Leader on May 6th I will personally lead the actions to improve the quality, role and understanding by councillors of the organisation that they lead. This will be helped by new systems of transparency and probity that I will introduce.

The people of Liverpool deserve nothing less than a 100% commitment from knowledgeable and hard-working councillors. The situation that we are in demands that we should work both hard and, wherever possible, unitedly minimising political controversy and uniting behand key objectives.

That’s my ambition for our new Council. I hope that it is yours as well.

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Liverpool’s need is a Lib Dem Lead

Our manifesto is a distillation of much thought over a four month period which has been updated in light of the Caller Report. Have a look at it and tell us what you think.

As I’ve listened to the discussions about the future of the City Council following the Caller Report I have been struck by how many people know what they are against. They are against the mayoralty, corruption, waste, incompetence, dodgy deals. And quite right too. I have been struck, however, by how little detail people are putting into their responses about what they will do about their concerns.

Plenty of platitudes about launching a fight against bad practices and doing good things but there is very little substance. Of course, we are all against bad things and in favour of good things but that isn’t enough.

Yesterday, I launched the Liverpool Lib Dem manifesto for this year’s local elections on May 6th. I described the manifesto, “Liberal Democrats Demand Better” as a blueprint to take Liverpool from a mess and a muddle to a bright post-Covid, post-Brexit future.

When launching it I said, “Since the Caller Report was published it has been abundantly clear that Liverpool’s need is a Lib Dem lead. Our 5,000+ word manifesto is the distillation of detailed proposals that will cover all aspects of how the Council works and what the Council should be doing. This manifesto was not produced as a response to the Caller Report. It has been many months in the making and has involved a number of meetings including one to which all our members were invited in mid-February.

It does answer many of the Caller issues because we were aware of the problems but were unable to get to the bottom of them because we did not have the powers of ‘interrogation and search’ that an official Government Inspection has. Even now we know that many other issues are being looked at by another investigation team with even more powers the Police both local and national who are delving deep into the City’s activities.

It is because we are both experienced and prepared that we can hit the ground running from May 7th because we have the knowledge and experience to know what is required now. That’s the quick start that our City so badly needs.

Lib Dem priorities include;

  • Proposals to change the political machinery of the council
  • Changes to the levels of accountability of officers
  • Increased transparency throughout the Council
  • Creating a cleaner, greener city to take us out of the post-Covid and post-Brexit era.
  • Greater support for teachers and their pupils.
  • New ideas about the changes required to our City Centre and District Centres
  • Creating a fairer and more equal City for all faiths, races and genders

But there is much more in our proposals than these. All the sections of the manifesto have a name after them who would be pleased to give more details on their particular bit. Just contact them by email at first name.last name@liverlibdems.org.uk.”

It will be interesting to see if the 6 other candidates for the mayoralty and 200 candidates for the council etc produce a manifesto in anything like this detail. For the past three elections in the City we were the only ones to produce a manifesto and say what we actually wanted to do. Even though an opposition party we have used those manifesto pledges to put motions to Council and Committees to try and move the agenda forward in a meaningful and liberal way

This is a radical set of proposals that meet both the short-term needs of the Caller Report and the long-term needs to reshape the economy of Liverpool. Our Lib Dem team has a great mix of experienced councillors and enthusiastic newcomers. The road ahead for Liverpool will be long and complicated. However, we can start the processes to recover the position of our council and City very quickly. In particular we can show the World that our sad past decade has been thrown off and that a new dawn has broken for our City.

The Liverpool Liberal Democrats manifesto, “Liberal Democrats Demand Better” can be seen and downloaded at this link. https://www.liverlibdems.org.uk/manifesto_for_liverpool. There’s also a videoon the website there from me and some leading members of my team explaining some of the key points.

Of course, you can always send your comments to me at Richard.kemp@liverlibdems.org.uk.

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