The North West’s Two Metro Mayors add little to the development of Liverpool and Manchester City Regions

330px-Andy_Burnham2                             Steve_Rotheram_MP_(cropped)

Mayor Andy Burnham                                  Mayor Steve Rotheram

Greater Manchester                                       Liverpool City Region

Tomorrow, I will argue at the Lib Dem’s North West Conference being held in Liverpool that the Region’s 2 Metro Mayors are adding nothing but cost and bureaucracy to the local government arrangements that existed before they were elected last year.

This has become increasingly obvious in the past couple of days when we have been treated to pictures from Cannes where the Liverpool City Region sent not one but two Mayors and all their hangers on to attract inward investment into the City Region. On one picture we have one Mayor scowling while the other Mayor speaks and on the second picture we have the other Mayor scowling while the first Mayor speaks. What a picture of disunity they presented!

The question, “Why do we need two Mayors at MIPIM”, begs the question why do we need two Mayors at all in Liverpool (three if you include the Lord Mayor)!? It then leads to the wider question of the value that having two Mayors for the Manchester and Liverpool City Regions is adding to the efforts to improve services and attract inward investment.

As I look around at their first 10 months of operation of Mayors Rotheram and Burnham I believe that they have made little or no impact on the key issues which affect their areas. Nor do they seem to be doing the things which over the years would add value.

Greater Manchester is considerably more advanced with powers over the Health Service and Police being given to the Mayor and Combined Authority but all the work for this was done by the 10 local councils who continue to undertake most of the delivery. The Health Service element is led by Cllr Lord Peter Smith a wily and experienced old Labour bird who spoke eloquently about the work that they are doing across the conurbation to bring together warring factions with the NHS and to create a stronger linkage with all the work of the local authorities. Of course, Public Health and Adult Social Care are the key issues here but all the social determinants of health come under council control or influence.

In the Liverpool City Region, the picture is bleak. The 6 Labour council leaders have a long history of low level bickering which meant that the Mayor had few powers devolved to him and most of his money has been tied up before his election. Police and the health service are unrelated to the Mayor and combined authority. Some of the services have not been tidied up and still relate to Cheshire wide bodies not City Region bodies.

The common feature of both City Regions is that the election of a Mayor has just added more cost and bureaucracy to a system which should have been capable of delivering all the outputs and outcomes without them. Lib Dems said at the time that a small authority would be better. This could have been composed of councillors from the 6 authorities that would have been chosen proportionately to the Party numbers. This would have three effects:

  1. The regional activity would be allied in a host of ways to the add-on activity within the councils;
  2. We would have had an authority that was not just composed of pale and stale Labour men who effectively have no opposition to them. It is a scandal that decisions are being by such an unrepresentative group of people.
  3. There would have been the saving of more than £1,000,000 of costs for running an election, every four years, that few have any real interest in.

I am absolutely convinced that we Lib Dems were right to call for these small and compact authorities rather than mayoralties when the Government pushed the Mayoral model on us. We are also right to say in Liverpool that we now have a ‘spare mayor’”.



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Changing the meaning and purpose of housing

Norfolk Street

The type of housing build shown here is a direct result of us treating housing as an asset and not a home

At our conference over the last weekend we looked at a number of policy areas and I must say that I was delighted with the motions that were carried in the hall with strong support and nearly unanimous votes. I was particularly concerted with two of them. One was that which related to the NHS and I will blog about that soon. The other related to housing which I will talk about now.

I helped draft the motion and there are two elements of which I am most proud:

“That the concept of a ‘house’ as a home now too often takes second place to the idea that the prime use of a ‘house’ is as a financial asset”.

If society as a whole accepted this value of a building as a home not a sense of £signs it would have tremendous implications for the way housing is provided.

In Countries like Germany many ‘middle-class’ people do not own their own homes. They rent long-term and even invest in the place they call home over and above what the landlord does. They invest any money they have either in themselves – having a good time – or in areas such as economic investment in the stock markets which provides economic activity to general benefit.

In our society it is considered that if you get to 30 and haven’t got your feet on the home ownership leader you are in danger of becoming a loser. If you haven’t done so by 40 you are definitely one.

This concept of housing as an investment has changed tax regimes such as the old ‘Mortgage Interest Relief at Source’ taxation and still distorts taxation by increases to inheritance tax thresholds much of which is caused bey increases in property values and not ‘earned’ growth.

It ahs also brought into being a number of different investment models which are loathsome. Liverpool is suffering now because of the number of homes that were sold off and not replaced by the ‘Right to Buy Process’ and the fractional investment model which has seen people throughout the world losing their savings and pensions in holes in the ground.

We should never let Labour off the hook on this. During the 13 years of Labour Government the number of socially rented homes reduced by 330,000. The effects of this are homelessness and huge payments to private landlords through housing benefit.

The second statement that I am most proud of is this:

“Conference believes that having a decent, warm, appropriate home in a clean, safe and well-managed neighbourhood is a basic human right that could and should be readily afforded in a country as wealthy as the UK”.

This statement, of course reinforces the concept of a home. Do we want to live on an estate or in a community? Do we see our neighbours as friends or nuisances or just there?

There would be a huge reduction in the social services and mental health bills if people felt to be a valued part of a self-sustaining and self-caring community.

So that’s my nuggets but as ever, ‘warts and all’ I reproduce the motion below. As ever I would be delighted to debate with you the issues.

The Lib Dem motion

Conference notes:

  1. That the concept of a ‘house’ as a home now too often takes second place to the idea that the prime use of a ‘house’ is as a financial asset.
  2. The important role that local government has in delivering housing through its roles in the planning system, in social housing and in delivering housing benefit.
  3. That peak housebuilding was achieved in 1968 – the consequence of decades of low home building is the current shortage of housing, including the 125,000 children currently homeless.
  4. The number of homes that have been lost from the social housing sector, 330,000 in the 13 years of the last Labour Government, as Right to Buy took social housing away and allowed much smaller levels of social home rebuilding.
  5. The Scottish and Welsh Governments have changed the law to abolish the Right to Buy.
  6. Many councils are borrowing heavily to invest in commercial property.
  7. Recent investigations by the Liberal Democrats have identified empty residential properties in many areas.
  8. That many development projects fail to deliver the proportion of affordable housing agreed at the planning stage.
  9. The recent dramatic rise in the number of rough sleepers.

Conference believes that:

  1. Having a decent, warm, appropriate home in a clean, safe and well-managed neighbourhood is a basic human right that could and should be readily afforded in a country as wealthy as the UK.
  2. For many people home ownership is appropriate but for others it is neither appropriate nor affordable, and in some cases is not desired.
  • The concentration on the role of housing as financial assets has led to the creation of a situation where ‘house’ prices have moved far faster than wages for decades and where young people have been priced out of the market for home ownership.
  1. There is a fundamental difference between affordable housing (which delivers housing that key and public-sector workers can afford) and social housing (which delivers housing which anyone can afford).
  2. While much private rental property is of a good quality there remain significant problems in the private rental sector; in addition, it is not the appropriate housing type for some groups of people, in particular for families with school-age children.
  3. The current powers for local government to provide new social housing directly, to bring empty housing back into use, to enforce planning requirements for social housing and to plan for the provision of social and affordable housing are inadequate.
  • Empty Dwelling Management Orders have not proved effective in bringing large numbers of empty homes back into use.
  • Younger and single people have little access to social housing, which is contributing to the rise in rough sleeping.

Conference reaffirms

1 a) Liberal Democrat policy to build 300,000 houses a year by 2022.

  1. b) Liberal Democrat policy to allow councils greater freedom to borrow for the provision of social housing, including scrapping the housing borrowing cap.

Conference calls for:

  1. Local Authorities to be able to borrow from the Public Works Loan Board to buy land for housing and to build both affordable and social housing on the same terms they are currently borrowing to purchase commercial property.
  2. The development of housing cooperatives for the social rented sector to give power to tenants to run their own estates.
  3. Local government to have the power to abandon Right to Buy, depending on local need.
  4. The EDMO legislation to be reviewed, for the powers for local government to compulsory purchase empty properties to be strengthened and for the process for compulsory purchase to be streamlined.
  5. Local government to have the power to direct the use of publicly owned land before disposal (including land owned by the NHS and Ministry of Defence), including to require its use wholly or partly for affordable and/or social housing.
  6. Receipts from the sale of council housing to be used for the provision of new social housing by local government including meeting the needs of rough sleepers.
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Some thoughts from a male leader on International Women’s Day


Lib Dem Daisy (Benson) has been my ‘muse’ for this set of reflections from a male viewpoint on International Women’s Day

Let me make clear from the start that if you don’t like this blog don’t blame me blame Daisy Benson. So that’s the first thing you need to know about the way men do business or politics. It’s never our fault!! Daisy Benson is an accomplished woman who was an excellent councillor and Deputy Leader of a Council and now is a real motivator both for new Party members and for the advancement of women in our Party.

She left a message on my Facebook account this morning after I responded to a comment she had made about International Women’s Day. My response was that it would be better for our Party and our Country if there were women involved in politics.  Her challenge to me was to write a blog about why I think this. So, let me explain why I believe that based on my 50+ years as an active politician.

I will start with a question that was raised in another Country about another sector – banking. Hilary Clinton raised the question, “What would have happened if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters?” What a great question. Lehman Brothers were the first of many banking and finance operations that collapsed at the start of the financial downturn which affected the World in the last decade and which we still feel today.

Banking was populated, and to some extent still is, by testosterone charged men for whom the chase was everything. They had a ‘must win at all costs’ attitude. The best thing about winning was beating the others. That led to a huge excess in which people boasted of £15,000 bottles of champagne and spending £60,000 on an evening out for 6 people. Interestingly all the people who featured in such stories were men, usually between about 20 and 35. Most, if not all, the people charged with financial irregularities arising from this financial fallout have been men. No Nicolette Leeson just a Nicholas Leeson!

So, you may come to a number of conclusions about this. Perhaps women aren’t as clever, perhaps they are not brave or bold enough, perhaps they just aren’t any good with finance. Certainly, some people will hold all if not some of those beliefs. My belief however is that women by and large think and act differently than men. Let me, of course, make the proviso clear that not all women are the same or that all men are the same. But collectively there do appear to be differences in the way women behave than the way men behave.

My personal view is that men like being team leaders and women like being team builders. Look at the way a man enters the room. Mostly they look round and judge the competition. What’s the pecking order; who do I need to mollify and who can I try and dominate. I don’t think most men think this is what they are doing and fewer set out to deliberately do it but they do it all the same.

A woman is much more likely to find people with whom they can empathise and with whom they can work not as superiors but as equals. They listen better than men; they emote better than men; they are more likely to have long-term relationships with friends than men.

That leads to a different style. As we move from the informal to the formal a man is more likely to be the bold, cliff jawed leader and with bold dramatic speeches and considerable arm waving (guilty as charged your honour!) Women are much more likely to be consensual and bring more people into a discussion and a play a secondary leadership role in order to develop a team approach.

We saw this last night in the Council Chamber in Liverpool. It was characterised in the Press as a bit of a ding-dong between me and the Elected Mayor. Not quite a real description of the situation as he spoke for more than an hour and I was allowed to speak for 5 minutes. But there was no doubt that all the dinging and donging was about or between him and I.

Perhaps that is why women are so under-represented in the upper echelons of all Parties including my own. Last week I amused some of my Twitter followers by recounting the fact that there was a woman in a nearby table in a train declaiming in a loud voice the problems of misogyny in the Liverpool Labour Party and Group. My amusement was not what she had to say but the fact that she was telling half a carriage including a member of another Party all about it! In fact, she was on her way to London for a Labour #metoo meeting which was taking place.

At the November meeting of our Council my one woman colleague, there will be more after May 3, was described as a fishwife by Liverpool’s Elected Mayor. This is clearly a sexist and derogatory statement. Did one woman Labour member reproach the Mayor. Certainly, if they did it was not done in public. At the January Council meeting we moved a motion which we hoped would be none-contentious which basically called upon gender equality and language training for all members of the Council based on this experience. Every Labour Member voted against it.

My belief is that the debate about the budget of the council and Liverpool’s future would have been better conducted and conducted in a very different way if there had been two women leaders in the City. Women don’t look in the same way for short term gain but long-term effect. The partnership way in which lessons can be learned and solutions can be discussed and acted upon is more important than a quick win.

Lehman Sisters would not have gone broke and nor would much of the rest of the financial sector if women had been in charge. They would not have lusted for glory in the same way that the men did. They would have planned for the long-term future and avoided head-strong risk.

There is certainly some proof of this in the business sector. The Fortune 500 Companies that have an equality or majority of women Board members do better in the long term than the ones that don’t. Research is beginning to show that the more women on boards in the UK the better that the Company does in the longer term.

I’ve been saying for years that I am just about the last generation of women to get away with things because I was a man. The society that I was born into 65 years ago was one where a woman gave up work when marrying; was subservient to her husband; would go in to lesser jobs because of assumptions about capacity and child birth prospects. Unfortunately, some of that still exists but nowhere near at the levels that it did all those years ago.

So, you might think that what I have put here is sentimental tosh; half-witted drivel, unproven meandering or you might just believe that inside here there are some gems of truth that someone with more than my brain might actually do something with. But my view is quite clear. The more women in more positions of power, the sooner and the better.

However, if you do disagree with me just remember – It’s Daisy’s fault!!

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Why the Lib Dems will vote against the Liverpool budget tonight


When the vote is taken on Liverpool Council’s Budget tonight Lib Dems will vote against it. I explain why below

Today the Liberal Democrats will do something that we have never done before in the 35 years that I have been on the Council. Normally, even if it’s not our budget we vote for the budget even if our amendments have not been accepted. We do so because we recognise that at the end of the day the Council must have a budget or it would have no money to spend.

We will however, ignore that today for three reasons.

Firstly, we have no confidence in the way that this budget has been produced. I would remind council that we have had no Chief Executive for nearly a year; no Director of Resources for nearly three months and no Cabinet Member for Finance for about 4 years.

The Chief Executive has been replaced on an interim basis by a Head of Paid Service who I have seen at no council meeting since last May. The Director of Resources has, we were informed last week, been replaced on an interim basis by an AED. Apparently, this has been the case for some time although we were not informed of this. The Cabinet Member for resources has been replaced by the Mayor who looks after all financial matters. Unusually I was not invited to meet the Interim Director of Resources to discuss budget options although I assume that if I had known that an interim post existed I might have chosen to do so.

We had tabled questions to this Council meeting about certain aspects of the council’s finances but were told that we could not do so. That leads me to my second point.

I have no confidence in how the figures contained in the budget reports have been arrived at. Let me give you an example. Last November I asked a question about the losses that had been made at St John’s Market after its disastrous redevelopment. I received no answer to the question except a load of knock about nonsense designed to do anything except let me know what is happening. Well I do know what is happening and I know that the Market has lost almost £1 million since its reopening. What I do not know is how and where that appears in this document given that the markets are in theory operated by our own arm’s length company Liverpool markets Ltd.

Let’s look at the vast number consultants employed by the Council. We have had an ex-Chief Executive from Bradford in doing some work on reorganisation or at least that is what we are told. This, of course is normally work that would be done by a resident Chief Executive. We have yet to see in any recognisable form any report suggesting changes. So how much we paid and for what is a mystery to us all.

Let’s look at financial advice. The Mayor was kind enough to invite me to a meeting with a former Director of Resources from Yorkshire about the way we do budgeting and control our finances. I was unable to attend but did have a long phone conversation with him. He is doing work that I would expect to be done by our own Director of Resources. How much we are paying, why we need this work to be done and where the work will go is absolutely unclear.

Let’s look at legal advice. Here I can only hope that the quality of organisational and financial advice that we get is better than the legal advice. We went to court over China Town and our case was rejected out of hand by the Judge. That’s £50,000 down the river. I received a letter from an external solicitor. The letter was so poor that my own legal advisers did not know whether to be outraged or fall into laughter. Instead they advised me to report it to the Lancashire Police where I can tell you it is being treated much more seriously than the Mayor’s complaint to the Merseyside Police over a transfer fee!

We have different legal and business advisers in looking at our potential deal with Everton FC. Of course, we already have a report from CIPFA outlining the major issues that need to be overcome if the deal is to be proceeded with. The reservations in the report from CIPFA are manifest but of course we cannot see the report because it is held to be ‘in commercial confidence’.

Hold on though. The council has today conceded that the report has already been seen by Everton who are the people we are supposed to be keeping it from! They further conceded that it was the Council who gave it to them . So we have a situation where I as a Councillor cannot see a report and the people of Liverpool who will underwrite at least £280,000,000 cannot see the report but the other side can! I have been told that both sides have included things to each other that they would not want to see go further. I accept that so I once again challenge the Council to redact those items and let us see the rest of the report showing the principal concerns that CIPFA have relating to this deal.

But the third reason that we will vote against the budget today is because we have no confidence in how the Council will manage whatever money it gets. Let’s give just some examples of how the money disappears.

  • £1,000,000 lost on the St John’s market
  • £80,000 lost on the ‘Hopeless and lacking in Glory’ Festival
  • £950,000 which may or may not be paid to the Council following the welcome news today that a new and more responsible developer has taken over the China Town Development but which should have been received before the council released land to a developer.
  • £4.5 million of unpaid Section 106 agreements much of which is unlikely to be recoverable.
  • £500,000 to pay for a spare mayor and entourage and an officer structure which has not recognised the fact that we have now have a City Region Mayor. Why does the Mayor need a press officer and Chief of Staff? After all Cllr Makinson ensures that he is regularly featured in Private Eye.
  • Borrowing up by 63% to pay for the 4 new football hubs and this increase was made in just the nine months between March last year and January this year.
  • The consultant fees which I have already mentioned.

I could go on.

At the end of the day a budget is not what you do on one day but what you do on every day of the year.

This budget always brings the opportunity for Labour members to have a go at the coalition. They forget the extent of cuts that were contained within the last Labour Government’s budgets. They either forget or do not know how that would affect the City. They always forget the way that things like the pupil premium; old age pensions improving in real terms for the first time for 25 years and the tax savings to very low income tax payers began to redistribute scarce resources to some of the neediest members of our society. They forget or don’t know that the so-called bedroom tax was implemented swiftly because it had already been done for private sector housing benefits by Chancellor Brown. They forget that we have major housing problems because the number of social homes reduced by 330,000 in England alone in the 13 years of the Blair and Brown Governments.

There is no white knight on the horizon. Those who think that Prime Minister Corbyn will deliver more money for Liverpool’s needs are sadly deluding themselves. Jeremy Corbyn has created a dreadful coalition with the Tories to take us out of the Single Market and Customs Union. Only yesterday we heard of another threat to car manufacturing jobs in Ellesmere Port because of BREXIT.

If we leave the single market and customs union the growth that this Country needs to fund any public services will not be there. In two years this Country has gone from the fastest growing economy in the EU to the slowest growing. The demographic pressures of health and social care needs an increased spending of 4% a year. This will not be found by any political Party with a growth rate in the general economy of 1.5% a year. All public services will suffer and because the poor depend most on public service it will be the most deprived members of society which will bear the brunt of the May/Corbyn coalition to destroy our relationship with our closest and best partners in Continental Europe.

What we now need is a Director of Resources with the power and authority to control wasteful expenditure and a Cabinet Member who actually understand finance and borrowing and the budget as a whole.

The process of removing an unwanted and enforced mayoralty and bringing sense to our finances will be enhanced on May 3 and at our next meeting I can assure you that I will be here with more members and you will be here with less.

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“Let’s work together on housing at Harthill” offer to Mayor Anderson from the Lib Dems

More than 300 people came together to save Harthill Green Spaces in January. Most of them would accept a compromise whereby Beechley House and a small area near it would be retained for public or private sector housing
After 4+ years of contentious debate Liverpool’s Liberal Democrats are suggesting a meeting with the Mayor of Liverpool about suitable development at Harthill Road.
Their Leader Cllr Richard Kemp explains, ” At the November Council meeting Mayor Anderson challenged us to say whether we would support the use of the land at Harthill for social housing instead of Redrow. I made it clear that we, and most of the community, had always thought that some of the land, namely Beechley House and some land very close to it, could be used for housing.
We know that the council’s figures for the removal to new locations of the Riding for the Disabled; Adventure Playground for the Disabled and the Model Railway are not stacking up. We are suggesting a win/win/win  situation in which the Mayor gets some housing; the community keeps most of the land for green space and outdoor uses and the three organisations can finally plan for the future.
We believe that this is a good compromise which almost everyone will accept and we urge the Mayor to support it and agree to meet with us and residents.
Attached below is the full text of the letter to the Mayor of Liverpool

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

16, Dovedale Road,

Liverpool L18 1DW

Joe Anderson,

Mayor of Liverpool

By E-mail

5th March 2018

Dear Mayor Anderson,

Re:       Let’s work together on the development of land at Harthill part of Calderstones Park

At the November meeting of the Council you challenged the Liberal Democrats to say where we would support the use of some of the land at Harthill Road for development for social housing by the Liverpool Housing Company that you established. I immediately said that we would be prepared to meet and that we would support the conversion of Beechley House to housing – social or private and some of the land very close to it to provide some more housing, again either private or public.

At the Council meeting in January you suggested that I had not responded to your request although we were very clear what our proposal was.

So, I now want to formally table a suggestion to you that ward councillors and representatives of the Save the Park Group should meet with you to discuss precisely what is acceptable to them and us. We have taken this suggestion to a public meeting attended by 300+ people and although some did not like it the vast majority of local residents supported it.

We know that the figures for the overall development do not stack up because of the costs of moving the Riding or the Disabled Stables, the Model Railway and the Adventure Playground for the disabled.

We could have a win/win situation here in which you get some housing and could develop it quickly; the removal of the threat of development on the remainder of the site would be welcomed by the community and the three bodies mentioned above could start bidding for lottery and other grants to give them a long-term future on their present sites.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Also on behalf of Cllr Andrew Makinson

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Council seeks to Suppress Damning Report on EFC Deal

Bramley Moore

Let us all see the CIPFA report which the taxpayers of Liverpool have paid for so that we can all see the risks that this eminent organisation thinks should be addressed

I believe that Liverpool Council is deliberately suppressing a report which raises great concerns about the viability of the EFC move to Bramley Moore Dock.  I know that before she left our former Director of Resources commissioned a report from CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting) about the issues raised by the potential deal. CIPFA is the source of all knowledge when it comes to council finance and indeed much of what we do and what the government allows us to do is undertaken on CIPFA rules or CIPFA guidelines.

When I asked the Council a direct question about the existence of a report my question was avoided. It has taken considerable effort by the Liverpool Echo to get the Council to even acknowledge that the report existed.

However, CIPFA, has confirmed that the report exists and that it has raised a series of questions that need to be addressed. I know that this report raises serious concerns and that professional opinion is looking askance at both our current level of borrowing and the future level of borrowing were the EFC deal to go ahead. But the report from CIPFA raises serious questions of principle about the deal itself and the role of any public sector body in entering such complex private sector led agreements.

This is what CIPFA officially told me:

Message from Rob Whiteman – Chief Executive of CIPFA received at 10.05 on 1st March 2018

Dear Cllr Kemp,

Thank you for your request.

I would advise that you speak to Ms Hellard, whom I understand from press reports remains your s151 Officer until 11th March, about the detail of the report she commissioned from us.

However, I am happy to confirm that we did carry out a review of the risks of the scheme you cite.

We were not asked to make recommendations on whether or not it proceeds but did raise a number of issues for the Council to consider. 

If you are comfortable, our usual policy is to let clients know when we receive queries on their commissions to assist communication. 

With best regards,

Yours sincerely,


Of course, in reality, Becky Hellard has gone. That is why I asked the interim Director of Resources for the report; a request which he avoided. We must also now question whether or not the effective departure of our highly respected Director of Resources, Becky Hellard, days after the report arrived at the council is a coincidence or has a sinister implication.

Almost everyone I have spoken to, included die-hard Evertonians, agrees that there are four questions to be asked which the Council seems to be avoiding.

  1. Why is one of the richest men in the world not paying for this himself? He can borrow money almost as cheaply as us and certainly the difference would be less than the amount that Everton will pay Liverpool.
  2. The owner of Everton did not become one of the richest men in the World by giving money away. Why is he doing it in this case?
  3. The cost of building the stadium has already gone up from £300,000,000 to £500,000,000 in 18 months but we still have had not had a digger put in the ground to see what’s underneath the surface. How much will this really cost and who will take the risks of the extra costs that we all know will arise? There is already a difference of opinion between the Council and Everton about the Council’s contribution.
  4. How much are all the things around the stadium going to cost and who is going to pay for them? The costs of the external infrastructure; new roads; new water, sewage, gas and electricity supplies.


Mayor Anderson has already contradicted himself on the way ahead. He has told the press that the Council will put £280,000,000 into the deal but that there will be full scrutiny of the deal. Full scrutiny must include the right of the Council to reject the deal when it sees all the figures and risks. This is an option that the Mayor has apparently ruled out.

This is without a doubt the single biggest commercial venture that the Council will ever undertake. It is vital that all Councillors and the taxpayers of Liverpool who will underwrite this debt must know all the facts about it. That is why I challenge the Council to come clean and publish the CIPFA report so that we can have a full and frank debate about a project which will have a major impact on the Council’s finances.


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In praise of…. Redford Court


Today I met with some wonderful people at Redford Court, Michael Boardman Service user and Family Liaison officer, Lisa Jones Service manager, Dr  Ivan Pitman clinical Neuro-Psychologist and Sally Rowlands Link worker

Sometimes the position of being an LGA spokesperson on Health & Social Care can be pretty wearing. I have to go to London a lot (6 times this month) listen to a lot of speeches (often my own!) and deal with £billions of pounds and the needs of millions of people.

Sometimes, however, I get the chance to do what I really enjoy doing. I can actually go out and meet some of the people behind those £s and those statistics. I can meet the people who deliver services and talk to the people that they help.

Today has been a wonderful example of that when I spent a couple of hours at Redford Country which is the Liverpool base for the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust. I learnt a lot about what they do and what causes brain injuries and I saw, at first hand, a great set of people doing great things. I also learnt about new positions. I didn’t know that such people as consultant neuro-psychologists existed!

So, what is a brain injury? Well it is not necessarily what I thought it was. I had made the assumption that most of the people would be suffering from injuries caused by some sort of traumatic incident such as a traffic collision or industrial problem and that the rest would be facing up to the aftermath of severe strokes or similar. Well those only account for some 30% of the people that Redford Court Deal with. The rest are down to the two most common causes of unnecessary problems of a traumatic nature – drugs and booze. As Hercule Poirot would put it too much of either or both of these are not good for, “ze little grey cells!”

Today I met with a man who had indeed had a serious accident and who is halfway through a rehab process which will lead to him going back into something like his normal life in about 6 weeks. Others might have no hope of this. Andrew who is an avid ‘Thunderbirds’ collector and unofficial archivist for St Helen’s Rugby League team is largely self-sufficient living in a lovely little apartment, provided by Riverside Housing, but will never be able to be entirely on his own in society.


I suspect that Andrew’s knowledge of Thunderbirds and St Helen’s Rugby League Club is second to none!!

I was delighted to hear how much families want to be involved in the rehab work. In some cases, families have been brought back together by the brain injury. Men and women who have had serious drink or drug problems which have often separated them from their families. Now that they are in a place where care can be given it gives the family space in which they can reconnect and find the ‘soul and spirit’ of their loved one somewhere within the problem.

The staff are marvellous and committed. There is a huge range of skills involved in supporting people with Brain Injuries from Occupational Therapists though Speech Therapists to consultant psychologists. With, of course a large number of caring, cleaning and cooking staff. All of them seemed relaxed and comfortable and the patients were clearly relaxed and comfortable with them. The place clearly functioned as a big family where everyone seemed to get on well. Of course, one of the problems with brain injuries is that someone can be placid and contained one minute and really nasty the next.

So, I have offered to help them with what they think is currently their most desperate need – to make people in a range of places understand what brain injury is and how to deal with it. The Police, for example, can think that that someone is just being stubborn or anti-social because that is how the person might present BUT that person cannot help doing what he (and it is mostly men for a variety of reasons) does. People who work in homeless centres or other places where the lonely and destitute end up can similarly be faced with what they perceive to be one problem but which is really another one.

To help with this problem another national charity called ‘Headway’ are producing photo identity cards which reveal the problem and give details of a help line where people on the ground can seek expert help.

I am sure that if you would like to visit Redford Court so that you understand this problem better you would be very welcome. I went, I saw, I learned and now want to help. I am sure that will happen to you if you go and have a look for yourself.


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