Does Boots the Chemist have a vendetta against Liverpool?

Boots has a reputation of being a friendly beneficent UK company. It isn’t because years ago it was removed from the FTSE 100 and is largely owned by American financiers. All over the Country they are closing High Street branches rather than look at ways of doing prevention work for the NHS.

Tomorrow I am attending a meeting to try and prevent the so-called merger of twp branches of Boots the Chemists on Allerton Road and Smithdown Place. Boots have already closed down an Alliance pharmacy on Allerton Road, (a subsidiary of Boots; a pharmacy in Marybone and a request has come in to merge two Boots branches in Walton Vale.

The President of the Company I am writing to is an Honourable, which means he is the son of a Lord and is also a friend of David Cameron and was educated at Eton so I have no great hopes that he will want to help the needy and not the greedy.

However what Boots are doing is failing to work with the Tory Government on the prevention agenda which the Government and indeed all political Parties support. Put simply Chemists shops could be doing far more work with the Government and Councils to ensure that low level screening services and innoulations take place in the High Street and thus reduce pressure on GPs and A and E services.

I’ll Let you know what happens to morrow and any response that get from Boots to my very rrasonable suggestion.

Here’s my letter. I hope it speaks for itself:

Hon Sebastian James,

President,

Boots the Chemist,

Beeston,

Nottingham NG2 3AA

27th January 2020

Dear Hon Simon James,

Closure of Pharmacies in Liverpool

Tomorrow I will be attending a meeting to try and prevent you doing a so-called merger of two Boots Pharmacies in Allerton Road, Liverpool 18. You haver already closed an Alliance pharmacy in the area, a pharmacy in Marybone and, I have just been informed, that you hope also to merge two pharmacies in the Walton Vale area of Liverpool.

I say so-called because it is clear there is a pretence of merging two branches because, in that way, you can, as you well know, limit the competition along Allerton Road. It is obvious to me that Boots the Chemist operates not to help the needy but to help the greedy.

I appreciate that the High Street has changed for every type of retailer but Pharmacies have the opportunity to be much, much more than this. You will have seen the recent advice that pharmacies could and should do much more upstream with a range of minor ailments and tests to relieve the pressure on GP practices. This could and should be vital work and it coincides with the opinions of your good friend David Cameron who spoke, during his Prime Ministry, of the need to relieve pressures in this sort of way.

Boots are the biggest supplier of pharmaceutical services in the UK. I believe that if you wanted to do it you could help bring the NHS into line with the Government’s ‘prevention agenda’ and move those services into the High Street. That would send out an important message not only about the riole of pharmacies but also about the fact that Boots do, indeed, want to assist the needy.

On that basis I believe that you should call of any so-called mergers or closures and enter into a full discussion with Councils and the NHS about how Boots could really help with the health and care needs of the communities of England and then the rest of the UK.

I look forward to hearing from you that you agree to this very reasonable request.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

Lib Dem Spokesperson on Health, Local Government Association of England

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Liverpool Lib Dems name candidates for City Mayor and Police Commissioner

This picture of Cllr Kris Brown and I was taken after an afternoon’s campaigning in Allerton and Hunts Cross Ward in advance of this year’s local elections

Liverpool’s Lib Dems have named the first of their three Citywide and Merseyside wide Candidates to take on Labour at the local elections in May.

Woolton Cllr Kris Brown is set to challenge for the Elected Police Commissioner’s position while Liverpool’s Lib Dem Leader will fight to become the City Mayor.

What makes these candidates unique is the fact that they both will seek to abolish the positions for which they are standing.

Cllr Kris Brown explains, “On May 7th Liverpool electors will have no less than 4 ballot papers to fill in for City Region Mayor, City Mayor, Elected Police Commissioner and a councillor for each ward. I don ‘t believe that there is any justification for all these elected positions as the holders of many of them have made little or no impact on the lives of the people of Liverpool.

In our regular conversations with people throughout the City they are consistently unable to name either the Police Commissioner or Regional Mayor and although they do know who the City Mayor is they don’t approve of what he is doing”.

Cllr Kemp added, “Lib Dems have continually opposed the positions of elected city mayor and elected police commissioner. If we revert to having a Council Leader and incorporate the role of the Elected Police Commissioner, we could save up to £1.8 million which we all think could be better used on front line services.

Throughout the Liverpool City Region, the Lib Dems are the main opposition to Labour and are the only opposition Party to be represented on all 6 Councils.

In Liverpool we could act quickly to cut costs and delete the role. The Police Commissioner will take longer but we would immediately initiate talks with the Government.

In addition, Lib Dems have named the first of their candidates for Liverpool Wards:

Allerton Hunts Cross Ward:   Cllr Mirna Juarez

Childwall Ward:          Pat Moloney

Church Ward:             Cllr Andrew Makinson

Cressington Ward:      Richard Clein

Mossley Hill Ward:     Rob McAlister-Bell

St Michaels Ward:      Chris Collins

Woolton Ward:          Cllr Malcolm Kelly

I believe that this is a strong team for Liverpool who can work with other existing Councillors to lay the foundations for a change in the direction and image of Liverpool that we so badly need”, Cllr Kemp concluded.

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Radical proposals for Education in Liverpool

Our young people are over examined and under educated. Lib Dems in Liverpool will do what they can to change this national and local problem after May’s local elections.

This is the first of a series of discussion documents which the Liverpool Lib Dems are issuing to enable our manifesto proposals for this year’s set of local elections to be discussed. Any thoughts of things that are talked about below or should talked about below should be sent to our education Spokesperson, Cllr Liz Makinson.

Liverpool Liberal Democrats are in the process of developing our new manifesto. We are circulating this draft proposal for education in our city to key stakeholders, in order to ensure that our plans will ensure the best educational experience for children and young people across the city. I would like to meet with young people, teachers and teacher unions, parents, guardians and healthcare professionals and welcome feedback and suggestions. I can be contacted on Liz.makinson@liverlibdems.org.uk or 07939 119402.

Our Overriding Principle

Educational success is best achieved by ensuring that schools are happy environments where young people are enthused by the learning experience and their personal development and happiness comes before all other considerations.

Our Overriding Policy

To bring in a series of practical measures to ensure that combating the mental health crisis for our young people is at the forefront of all decisions and policies.

Background

For too long, our schools have followed a model of top down decision making, with student voice and teacher expertise being paid lip service to.  A slavish adherence to the assessment model has taken away the joy of learning and has impacted on both results and, more importantly the mental health of our city’s children. There have always been many stresses to face, particularly around adolescence and today the pressures of social media and the digital age can add to them.  School should not be further adding to our young people’s stress and unfortunately it is in many cases.

Schools have always had the pressure of public exams and part of the preparation for life is learning how to cope with them.  However, if constant assessment and internal target setting is added to that, along with countless learning walks and teacher observations the outcome for children can be toxic, creating an atmosphere charged with stress rather than delight in learning and discovery.

Last year there was a 20% increase in referrals for young people to mental health services.  This is the tip of an evergrowing iceberg as many children do not seek help and suffer alone. Liverpool CAMHS which promotes wellbeing in young people listed school pressures as significant in young people’s mental health struggles.

It is time that we put young people’s health and well-being at the forefront of everything we do.

Our proposals

  1. To change the emphasis in our city’s schools from a target driven assessment model to a greater focus on the personal development of the student and the happiness of the school environment. The countries with the highest academic standards have the greatest emphasis on the well-being of the students.
  2. A city wide INSET day for all school staff, teaching and non-teaching, with input from health professionals on promoting good mental health and developing a happy environment in our schools. Each school should then appoint a mental health champion.
  3. Move away from constant assessment in our city’s schools to focus on enjoyment and learning.  All students should have an entitlement to experience the rich culture and heritage of our city on school visits.
  4. Life Skills to be given greater curriculum time and status within schools. All students deserve to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to make good decisions and create a positive future.
  5. Children should not be penalised for attending medical appointments or for genuine illness. Losing the right to a trip out or other school celebration because of illness sends the wrong message to children struggling with physical and mental ill health.
  6. Creation of new council apprenticeships, for example horticulture and parks management. The council can lead by example in the creation of good quality apprenticeships.
  7. Every school will have links with local institutions and businesses. This will aid in developing career pathways and raising aspiration. Every Liverpool student will have the opportunity to experience an industry visit.
  8. A constant climate of competition within schools should be replaced by a more cooperative model with the emphasis on celebrating success for all students. Improvement should emerge organically as a result of excellent learning and teaching, not via rigid adherence to management led models of learning. Teacher autonomy and expertise should be recognised and subject specialism and enthusiasm be at the heart of learning.
  9. Ensure that the curriculum is broad and ensures that students can achieve their ambitions, for example language provision within our schools has been restricted and we need to listen to young people and ensure their aspirations can be met. This may come from schools sharing expertise and classes.
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Liverpool will always be a major European City

Liverpool is and always will be a major European City. At the suggestion of the Liberal Democrats the City has agreed to improve our links with EU Countries and hold a regular festival of European art, culture and cuisines on the anniversary of the 2016 referendum. The European Flag will continue to fly in Liverpool

At its meeting on 15th January Liverpool City Council overwhelmingly passed a motion from the City’s Liberal Democrats which not only declared that Liverpool is and will remain a major European City but would take steps to increase and improve its European links.

In moving the motion I said, “with regret we must now accept that at some stage whether with no deal, what could be considered a bad deal or what could be considered a good deal the UK will leave the EU. In our view there is no such thing as a good deal because any way that we exit the EU will be a worse deal than the one that we have.

We already know that leaving the EU is bad for our economy with job losses and a down turn in economic growth which will, in turn, lead to a down turn in tax revenues and therefore a down turn in what we can do to provide better public services. What the Council must do now is to exert its influence to work with our City and City Region colleagues to minimise the problems”.

Amongst the suggestions made, which will now be sent to a new steering committee to look at EU relationships, are:

  • Establishing a link with an appropriate city in each of the 27 nation states of the EU
  • Asking every EU state to appoint an Honorary Consul to the City to ensure high level diplomatic and commercial contacts.
  • Holding an annual festival of European Art, Culture and Cuisine on the date of the 2016 referendum

I concluded, “I wake up in Europe every day because our City is part of Europe and has been for the past 5,000 years. Nothing that has happened in terms of the referendum and passing of the Withdrawal Act will change that. Liverpool is a City where we will still be pleased to raise the European Flag over the Town Hall and other public buildings”

The Motion was passed by 56 votes to 5 with two councillors abstaining. The Liberal Democrats voted unanimously for the motion. The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has agreed to set up the suggested steering group quickly.

This is the resolution that was passed yesterday by the Council

Motion to Liverpool City Council on January 18th

Liverpool – A European City

Proposed Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Seconded Cllr Andrew Makinson

Council notes with regret that Parliament has passed a vote which will mean us leaving the European Union.

It believes that this will cause a huge turbulence in our economy which will lead to a reduced level of Gross Domestic Product and therefore a reduced level of taxation. These factors will in turn lead to decreasing opportunities for employment and reduced investment in public services.

Council believes that in spite of the vote in Parliament Liverpool is and will always be a major European City. It will seek to build on its current status and strengthen its own links with Europe by:

  • Holding an annual festival of European art, culture and cuisines on the date of the 2016 referendum.
  • Requesting each EU member country which does not currently have an honorary consul in the City to appoint one to ensure ongoing top-level links between Liverpool and those countries.
  • Working with one appropriate city in each member state to develop city to city links to boost trade, commerce, service delivery, art and cultural exchanges.

To further these and other objectives it resolves to establish a  steering Group composed of members and staff of the Council, the Chamber of Commerce, representatives of the European Movement and World Wide Wednesday, national groups present in Liverpool and other interested Parties to work together to support all pro-European activity within the City and City region.

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Funding for the new Everton FC Stadium

The clear news that Liverpool Council will not be a major investor in Everton FC’s new stadium means that, subject to planning and infrastructure issues Liverpool Lib Dems can support the Bramley Moore Dock proposal

Statement by Liverpool Liberal Democrats

Liverpool’s Liberal Democrats have welcomed the news that it now seems likely that the new EFC stadium will be produced without capital funding from the City Council.

Liverpool’s Lib Dem Leader Cllr Richard Kemp said, “Subject to all the proper planning constraints we wish EFC well in their attempts to bring a new stadium for the City. We have always said that a new stadium means new investment opportunities in a variety of forms but in particular servicing the increased football tourism that will result from it.

We were extremely wary of the Council getting involved in financing of the stadium itself especially when it was suggested that the Council might be the sole funder. Councils do not have the financial expertise to judge investments of this sort and that is doubly true when foreign investors and capital are involved.

There are now three outstanding issues which we are seeking answers to:

  1. What will be the cost of providing all the external infrastructure required to enable people to get to the stadium and where will it come from? There is no point in building a stadium that people cannot access easily. As a rule of thumb, a £500 million development of this sort will need at least £80 million of transport and other infrastructure which will be a public sector cost on top of the pure stadium cost.
  2. Will we now get back the £700,000 consultancy fees that the Mayor has told us the Council put into the review of the Council’s involvement in the funding package? He told us that we would get the money back from Everton FC almost 2 years ago. We badly need that money for other things.
  3. Is the money still in place, given the difficult financial times that we are in, to remediate the land and area occupied by the present stadium and use the regeneration effort to reinvigorate the County Road area ”
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Call for new Housing Initiatives in Liverpool

Liverpool Council needs to learn from the best of the past. Housing co-ops, of which the best known are the Eldonians, pictured here, provided high quality housing,which has been well maintained for decades and which have provided stability to their own and their surrounding communities

On Wednesday my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will call on the Liverpool City Council to commence a programme of encouraging new housing cooperatives and converting large properties into council run Houses in Multiple Occupation.

It is in response to a Labour motion which fails to recognise the fact that the social housing provision in the Country has been in decline under successive governments. Since the early 70s housing production, in both public and private sectors, has fallen behind housing need. Unless we recognise this and therefore the long-term scale of the problems and their solution, we will only be adding a sticking plaster to major wounds.

The most successful social housing in Liverpool has been provided neither by the Council or housing associations but by the housing cooperatives which are directly run by the people who live in them. In the late 70s and early 80s more housing co-ops (about 40) were established in Liverpool than anywhere else in Western Europe. They have stood the test of time with low void rates and maintenance costs and were described by Chris Holmes, the former Director of Shelter, “as oases of good community inside fractured communities” The best known of these is the Eldonians in North Liverpool whose work also led to the adoption of other employment, community and training initiatives for their Kirkdale community.

We will also ask the Council to look at the provision of its own ‘Houses in Multiple Occupation’ as a response to the Government’s recent decision on private landlord licensing.

We will move these suggestions which will include the idea of a special council on housing issues in response to a Labour motion, which, I think, provides nothing new.

In view of the likely reduction in both the money and powers needed to provide better housing in our City the Council needs to be more imaginative about what it does and what it encourages others to do. Housing cooperatives have worked well for the people that live in them and the areas in which they are situated. The biggest problems with private landlords come from their converted ‘Homes in Multiple Occupation’. We believe that we should take the bad private landlords on by undertaking our own conversion to provide a much better product which is much better run. 

Mayor Anderson is right to suggest that there needs to be a Council meeting devoted solely to this subject so that the Council can publicly take stock of the current situation; problems and opportunities and strive to work together. The poor quality of the Labour motion, which can be seen on the Council summons, shows the need to holistically and imaginatively review the situation. If we continually hark to the past and seek to re-employ old solutions to current problems, we will achieve little in terms of the much-needed stock improvement our City needs.

The full amendment to Labour’s motion is appended here:

Council Meeting – 15th January

Motion 14 Social Housing

Cllr Richard Kemp

Cllr Kris Brown

Delete paragraph 2 and insert:

It regrets that successive governments have failed to provide both the public and private housing that the Country needs and that production of new homes has fallen behind levels needed since the early 1970s. It notes that:

·       there were 333,000 less social homes in 2010 than there were in 1997;

·       that for more than a decade of the Blair/Brown governments councils were not able to build council houses with capital diverted to housing associations;

·       that the Right to Buy programme introduced by the Tories was followed by the Labour Governments including huge discounts on market values and the Treasury taking 75% of all proceeds;

·       that the so-called bedroom tax was introduced by the Labour Government in 2007 for tenants of private landlords and in 2008 undertook a pilot project for its implementation among social housing tenants.

However, it believes that continually talking about the past may be preventing a structured and rational debate about the future of social housing within the City given current pressures.

It therefore supports the suggestion of the Mayor of Liverpool to hold a special meeting of the Council to look at all housing in the City with particular attention being paid to social housing.

It believes that housing should be provided throughout the city in neighbourhoods which blend social and home ownership, different sizes and types of accommodation in communities which are clean, green safe and well managed.

It notes the strength of the housing cooperative movement in the City and asks for a specific review of the work the Council’s Foundation Company and RSLs could do to promote more cooperative housing where people do not rely on landlords but are able to make their own decisions about their homes and their areas.

It notes the recent decision by the Government to restrict the licensing arrangements of the Council for private sector landlords and believes that one response to this move would be for Foundations itself to become a provider of high-quality Houses in Multiple Occupation. It asks for a report to be included for the debate on this and any other appropriate social housing solutions to the licensing problems which will ensue.

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‘Loan Notes’ should not be the way forward for the Liverpool property market

By now this development for a new China Town on Great George Street should have been completed and occupied. It will never be built. Now another potential developer has come along with yet another way of securing development finance. Only time will tell if this new developer brings the institutional investment that City so badly needs.

18 months ago, the Council’s “Fractional Investment Task Group” held its first meeting. 6 months ago, it held its last meeting. You might think that you have missed the report that was produced. You haven’t because there has been no report despite the fact that there are obvious things that we found out that should be acted upon by the Council and a wide range of other players.

A conservative estimate is that £200,000,000 of investors’ money has either gone missing or has been spent in a way that means that there will be no recoverable investment. Most of this is in residential property but there were other types of property invested in as well.

There are no fractional investment offers being put on the market now because the ultra-high risk of this investment has now been made clear. That has not stopped other ways of putting high risk investment ‘opportunities’ into the market place

I have been sent the ‘sales details’ for a Loan Note being issued by the potential developers of the Great Georges (formerly China Town) site. I have looked in detail at the details which are for a scheme which is absolutely legal but which is highly speculative.

It is being promoted by Investability Ltd a company with one director registered in a suburban office outside London.

Its lawyers may be the same as the one director or may just be related. Not in itself in away illegal.

The loan note carries a repayment of 12% per annuum guaranteed after two years. This is, of course, about 10% more than individuals could raise from investment in a bank or building society. This suggests a high degree of risk associated with the loan note.

This risk is confirmed throughout the document. I select some apposite quotations direct from the brochure.

“Investments in this type of company carry particular risks. Investors are reminded that there is no guarantee that the company’s strategy or trading activities will be successful”.

“Financial institutions and/or other institutions lending to Investably may choose to withdraw their facilities due to changes in their lending policies or an inability to agree lending terms with the Company. Were this to happen, it may not be possible for the Company to meet its contractual obligations. This could result in a halt in development and potential financial losses”.

“The protections afforded by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 including recourse to the Financial Ombudsman Service and compensation entitlements under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme do not apply”.

In addition, it is not clear what the loan note money raised is to be used for. Although the brochure deals solely with the Great Georges St Development the description of the loan note purposes is much vaguer:

“The company is focused on development projects in residential and leisure sectors. The Directors hope to raise £8 million from the issue of the loan note which will facilitate pipeline projects and new opportunities”.

My recollection is that we were assured at the time of the planning application that an agreement about outstanding legal issues had been reached regarding this site between the developers and the Council. However, I have been assured by the Council that there is, as yet, no agreement with the Council to let this development proceed with this developer.

I have asked a series of questions, below, about this matter to the Council. At present only the first of these has been replied to. I will continue to request a reply to all of them.

Could you tell me:

  1. Has the sale of this land been agreed?
  2. Are there any legal issues outstanding between the Council and the developer?
  3. Are there any legal issues outstanding between the Council and the original developer?
  4. Do we have any opportunity to stop this development based on the fact that this is not the sort of firm institutional investor that we need in the City?
  5. Does the agreement with the developer allow for any repayment by the current developers to the hundreds of people who appear to have lost money with the previous developer?
  6. Given that the loan note only appears to seek to find the money required to take development to a next stage, including finding such high-grade permanent investors, when will S106 money be paid for the site?

I have also asked two questions of the developer on 3rd January which have also not been answered:

1.    Could you let me know if the proposed developer has title to the land and could therefore develop if finance is found; and

2.    The brochure regarding the loan note suggests that the £8 million to be raised is for a series of projects and not just for Great George Street. Could you give me an indication of what those projects might be?

I have yet to receive a reply. As always with property development in the City there are more questions than answers! There are two which lie at the heart of our problems in the City. Let us never forget that while there were fractional investment difficulties everywhere Liverpool had as many as the rest of England combined.

Problem 1. Why does the Council not do more to attracted institutional developers and established long-term investors in the City? The Council always attends MIPIM in Cannes and a follow up property MIPIM in London but we never seem to be able to land a big fish

Problem 2. Why is it left to an individual councillor to take up these issues? These are matters of huge concern to the City. What happens with issues like these will affect to finances and physical development of the City for decades. That’s why the Fractional Investment Group should publicly report. That’s why the Council should be much more public about its role in development and about its goals for the type of developer that they are working on attracting into the City.

I’m not a financial adviser but I can give some general advice. Never invest in anything like this until your own independent financial adviser and solicitor have looked at all the details and asked relevant questions. If you then proceed with a high risk investment because you might get a higher rate of return then don’t moan if it all goes wrong.

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