How much is a University Vice chancellor really worth?

Universities are big business but they are also a vital part of the public sector. Why are vice chancellors paid so much more compared to staff in other more demanding parts of the public sector?

I’ve been thinking a lot about public sector pay recently. Two things have brought this thought process on:

Firstly, its because we have seen the Tory view of value when they have set earnings levels as a way of letting people in to our Country or not. In their eyes if you earn more you must be worth more. That may in some contexts be true but it’s not necessarily true for those who work in the public sector.

Take the people who look after my mother-in-law who is suffering from severe dementia. The people who look after her are, apparently, unskilled and therefore earn little more than the minimum wage. Unskilled?! No, it’s not true is it. Looking after someone with dementia is a highly skilled job. True it might not necessarily be a job with high qualification levels although many do have qualifications up to NVQ3 level.

 But the ability to deal with people with severe problems like dementia needs a caring heart, compassion and patience. Why are these cheap skills? Why do we value these skills less than people with skills in, for example, the finance industry? Perhaps it’s because one set of people make lives liveable whilst others make money.

Secondly, I saw some quite obscene figures for the pay levels of University Vice Chancellors. I know that Universities are complex businesses and the University world is highly completive as they chase students and research grants. But the job is nowhere near as complicated as being the Chief Executive of a large council like Liverpool.

A council Chief Executive has to control staff in a wide range of disciplines; with huge cuts in budgets and difficult social decisions. If they and their politicians make mistakes people’s lives can be seriously affected. This can leave to massive reductions in the health opportunities for local people and communities and in extremis, loss of lives.

Council staff do things in the public view. They are criticised in the press. They are visible at public meetings. They can be publicly questioned by councillors and public. Their shareholders, the residents, are also their service users with a huge range of subjects. University Vice chancellors are rarely exposed to public scrutiny.

So why do most University Vice-Chancellors get twice as much salary as the Chief Executives of the cities and towns in which their universities are situated? They are legally private companies but of course are very heavily dependent on taxpayers’ cash.

In the 13 years of the Blair/Brown Governments there were three major reorganisations of the NHS. I watched in amazement as senior staff were made redundant twice with large payoffs and then go almost immediately to another NHS job. Of course, if you were a street sweeper or a refuse collector you wouldn’t have such a luxury if you were made redundant, but the sharp elbowed can always find a way to make money by gaming the system.

But then let’s take the argument still further. Why is money such a huge motivation? Who needs £450,000 a year to live on? I’ve never earned anywhere near as much as a quarter of this but I have a nice house and a nice car and can afford to go away on holiday for a few weeks a year. I consider myself both privileged and lucky and I would not know what to do with more money that I have earned except, of course, give it away some of it in the direction of my grandchildren.

Then we have the discussion about taxation. Why is it that higher earners get a larger percentage tax allowance towards their pensions than lower earners? Why is it that wealthier people pay proportionately less council tax than lower earners because of a grossly unfair tax banding system? Why can’t people over an earnings level of £150,000 a year pay more towards the costs of running the society which enables them to make the high salary?

These are issues which society has to deal with and for which we need to have a huge debate about what is acceptable and is not.  There are some things which we can do:

  1. Set a maximum level of pay within the public sector and quasi-public sector;
  2. Set a maximum level for redundancy pay outs in the public sector
  3. Review entirely our highly complex system of tax rebates and tax levels to have an easier to understand system which acts more fairly in terms of collection of the money which our society needs.
  4. Have an immigration system which recognises value to society in more sophisticated terms than earnings levels.

Sorry if this seems even more of a rant than normal but I increasingly feel that there is plenty of money in this Country but we don’t share it out properly. I don’t believe that we should all get the same amount. I believe that some are financially worth more than others for a whole variety of reasons. The gap between top and low paid should be much smaller if we want to have a more civilised society. The Scandinavian Countries don’t need Anglo-Saxon style hyper salaries for their business or public sectors so why should we?

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Tory plan for Brexit labour problems? Half price pensioners!

So that’s it folks. No room for the elderly to put their feet up after a lifetime of work. Its off to the farms for you to get the carrots in!

The papers have been full of reports this week about the shortage of staff particularly in agriculture, social care and hospitality that will be caused by ill thought ou,t new immigration policies.

But don’t despair, the Tories have a cunning plan. They have worked out that there are 8 million people who are economically inactive in the UK and they believe that those people could replace the young fit Europeans who will no longer be able to enter our Country.

A very large number of those are people who have retired and had some hope of spending their remaining years in a good rest. After a lifetime looking after children, grandchildren and often now their parents they naively thought that the Government might happily pay them pension to live in dignity.

The Tories have other ideas. Apparently, you oldies (the description of which includes me) have so much time on your hands that you could and should be using it for the benefit of post-Brexit Britain. They have, however, spotted a slight flaw with this idea. Apparently, we old folk won’t be as productive as the young uns! We’ve got a bit arthritic and our knees aren’t quite what they used to be! So, who would possibly want to employ us? So, they have a little scheme for this. Change the minimum wage requirements so that pensioners can work for half price.

What a joy this will be! Getting up at 5.30 a.m. in the summer to get the carrots and strawberries in. Learning to become a barrista to dole out coffee to the young. Strengthening those biceps so that you can lift those who are even older that you so that you can clean them. Are you as excited about this as the Tories are? Probably not! Neither am I.

I suppose that if you are Jacob Rees-Smug all this seems very obvious. Insulated as they are by inherited money, they have no real understanding of how ordinary folk live. Their children are looked after by nannies, their eccentric maiden aunts are confined to the attic or care homes and if they are unable to cope with household duties. If they want something to do with a spot of spare time, they ensure that they get put on a Board which gives them a nice little earner.

So, let me give them a lesson in what ordinary folk do when they start hitting 50 upwards with increasing intensity when they move into retirement

  • We care for the children in our family allowing their mums and dads to go to work.
  • We care for the elderly in our family by looking after them as their mental and physical health declines.
  • We volunteer for all sorts of this by running charity shops, churches and charities
  • We use our life experiences to serve on school governing bodies, charitable trusts and offer free services to those coming up behind us.

We don’t ask for payment for most of these activities although expenses would be nice. These things add hugely to the productivity of our Country. It means that young people can go to work; that the NHS and councils are saved a fortune in care and medical charges; they ensure that charities function and can do their necessary works within our society. You want to pay us 50% of the minimum wage for doing these things? Great because that 100% more than we get now!

Society in this Country simply would not function without the work lovingly and without compulsion given by those of pensionable age who work as long as they possibly can. I often thing of my late Aunt, Aunty Peg. At the age of 86 she would tell me how she was off to a hospital to do work with the Women’s Institute looking after the ‘old folk!” That’s the true spirit of Britain. Not nasty bigoted people who cannot see how to do anything without making a personal profit from but people like Aunty Peg whose life was about caring and from which they get a great personal and mental benefit from their work putting support in to a wider society.

Put simply pensioners are not going to be doing any of the jobs that I mentioned earlier. Some older people find work because they need the money or just love being out and about doing things. Others just are pleased to support an elderly relative or a growing clutch of young people and do not expect to be told that they are letting their country down by not doing more.

Picking carrots, selling coffee, providing intense social care is something that needs to be done by younger people. We warned continually that Brexit would mean that there would be gaps in a range of jobs from brain surgeons to carrot pickers. We were right. It was all so foreseeable. However, the answer to these shortages must be an intelligent immigration policy which meets the Country’s needs and not the right wingers’ prejudices.

Those of us in the third age do our bit in and for society. Just don’t make us do things for which our bodies are no longer fit for purpose!

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Lib Dems to take an axe to bureaucracy in Liverpool

Our proposals will take power from bureaucrats and politicians based in the City Centre and move power out to the districts and communities of Liverpool

Liverpool’s Liberal Democrats will take an axe to political posts and bureaucracies should they gain power through the election of the City Mayor on May 7th.

As part of our programme of letting local people comment and help us create our policies in the run up to the May 7th local lections we are publishing our manifesto section ion hpw we believe that that local democratic structures should be run.

Our headline proposals include:

  • Within 24 hours of taking the position we will change the name from Elected Mayor to Council Leader; halve the salary for the post; halve the number of officers servicing the position and delete all references to special funds currently held and given in the Mayor’s name which will in future be designated as Council Funds.
  • We will immediately commence discussions with the Government to delete the role of Elected Police Commissioner and include it in the work of the Liverpool City Region Mayor.
  • We will harness the intellectual power of our 3 universities; businesses, public sector organisations and people to create an “Innovation and Future Proofing Task Force” which will look at changes in IT; artificial intelligence; communications; new products and materials
  • The creation of 5 powerful district-based Committees to oversee performance and use local knowledge to promote local actions of the Council and its partners.

Further details can be obtained from our deputy leader Cllr Andrew Makinson at Andrew.makinson@liverlibdems.org.uk or 07939 220336

The draft document which is being circulated for discussion with the people of Liverpool is appended below:

Taking an axe to the bureaucracies of Liverpool

Liverpool Liberal Democrats are in the process of developing our manifesto for the local and city region elections next May. Liverpool will elect a Regional Mayor, a Police Commissioner; a City Mayor and 30 councillors.

Unlike other political parties we do not believe that we know everything and should decide everything. In each part of Liverpool there are people who know more about their topics than we can ever do as generalists. We are circulating this draft section to people and inviting them to comment about our principles and ideas. We would be pleased to come and meet with you and your organisation to discuss them or just to receive your thoughts. I am dealing with this part of our manifesto. You can contact me at Andrew.makinson@liverlibdems.org.uk or 07939 220336. I look forward to hearing from you.

Cllr Andrew Makinson,           Deputy Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

Our Overriding Principle:

To ensure that the views of the citizens of Liverpool are adequately and continually reflected in the elections to the variety of bodies within the local authority sphere and are easily accessible for scrutiny and challenge by residents, businesses and organisations.

Our Overriding Policy:

To slim down the number of politicians and layers of political control within the Liverpool City Region and create a lean and responsive political and officer structure by eliminating the posts of Elected Police Commissioner and City Mayor and allowing residents enhanced access to the democratic process outside the election period.

Background:

Liverpool will be a unique place on May 7th as it is the only part of the Country where there will be simultaneous elections for 4 levels of local government.

The ballot papers will be issued for:

City Region Mayor covering 6 Boroughs with the Liverpool City Region

Elected Police Police Commissioner covering the 5 Boroughs of the former Merseyside County area

City Mayor covering all 30 wards of Liverpool

Ward Councillor for each of the 30 Liverpool wards.

In addition, there are a series of ineffective scrutiny and coordination committees and bodies created from amongst the elected Councillors for 5 or 6 Borough!

We wish to cut out the waste and duplication and associated bureaucracy and spend money on front line service sand not politicians and bureaucrats.

Our Proposals:

  1. We will abolish the role of Elected City Mayor which we believe is superfluous and adds nothing to the Leader/Cabinet method of Government which exists in most other councils including all of those in the rest of the Liverpool City Region.
  2. Within 24 hours of taking the position we would change its name to that of Council Leader; half the salary for the post; halve the number of officers servicing the position and delete all references to special funds currently held and given in the Mayor’s name which will in future be designated as Council Funds
  • At a later stage we would commence a full consultation with the people and businesses of Liverpool as to the total system of local and regional government that they would like to see.
  • We will immediately commence discussions with the Government to delete the role of Elected Police Commissioner and include it in the work of the Liverpool City Region Mayor. We would then work with the Government to bring Halton into this set up instead of being subject to the Cheshire Police and the Cheshire Chief Constable.

We would establish a Police Liaison Committee composed of the Cabinet Members responsible for community safety within the LCR boroughs with additional members, if necessary, to ensure proportionate political representation. This committee would scrutinise the work of the Police and would work with the Police to generate strong local police actions to strong neighbourhood led community safety activity.

  • The role of City Region Mayor is enshrined in law as is the scrutiny arrangements to oversee them. We would prefer a small directly elected and therefore directly accountable system to be put in place.

Recognising that the vast majority of people are unable to recognise the Elected Regional Mayor or what that person may or may not have done we would work with the Government to change the scrutiny arrangements for the City Region. We note that the scrutiny committee has often been inquorate which has delayed the initiation of a number of projects.

We would ensure that the Regional Mayor held regular public and open meetings in each of the 6 Boroughs of the LCR at which they could be questioned by councillors, the public, businesses and organisation.

In addition to the councillor membership of the Scrutiny Committee relevant organisations and businesses people would be invited to take part in the scrutiny process in areas such as transport, climate change and trade.

  • The role of the 90 Liverpool councillors would be changed to ensure that they are able to hold the Cabinet to account and to actively promote policy changes on behalf of their areas.

The number of central scrutiny committees would be reduced to 2:

  • Overview and Scrutiny. This would receive regular reports on the performance of the City in comparison to LCR neighbours and core cities. It would also deal with items called in from the Cabinet.
  • Health which would undertake its statutory duties of overseeing health service delivery in the City.

The remaining scrutiny functions and proactive policy development would be undertaken by 5 district committees composed of the 18 councillors for their area based, wherever possible in a co-terminous way with the newly emerging Primary Care Networks.

  • An Innovation and Future Proofing Task Force

We will harness the intellectual power of our 3 universities; businesses, public sector organisations and people to create an Innovation and Future Proofing Task Force which will look at changes in IT; artificial intelligence; communications; new products and materials and green issues to provide an input into the work of:

  • The public and voluntary sectors and especially the Council to enable them to use all new technologies to help deliver improvements in the daily lives of our citizens
  • Businesses to develop new products and services which will enable our City to take advantage of new technologies and products to sustain and create high quality employment;
  • The community to enable them to take advantage of new technology in their day to day lives.
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Recommendations to clear up Liverpool’s Property scandals

The Paramount on London Road. One third was completed 3.5 years the other two thirds has been rotting ever since with some surveyors claiming that the uncompleted part is now dangerous

In view of the failure of Liverpool Council to issue a report into Liverpool’s Fractional Investment Property scandal I have issued my own.

It is a disgrace that 9 months after the Fractional Investment Task Group had its last meeting and 18 months after it held its first the Council has still failed to issue a report on what to do about the mess that the Liverpool property market is in. How many more people have lost money in ill-advised property investment in our City during this period?

In my report I have suggested a number of recommendations to the Council, Government, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the legal profession and estate agents about what needs to be done to prevent future scandals of the type that has left about 20 blocks in Liverpool part developed and with more than £200,000,000 and possibly up to £500 million of investors money lost or wasted. I have made 13 recommendations in total in addition to some directed at would be investors.

Although there is no more fractional investment as people have realised just how risky it is a plethora of other schemes have entered the market to promise way above average returns on investment. Housing Bonds; Housing Loans; Housing Corporate Bonds and Loan Notes have all been marketed with high promise of returns but low mention of the risks involved. What Liverpool needs is institutional investors like Banks; property management companies and developers who use their own finance. Until we acknowledge what has happened in Liverpool and come up with firm recommendations to deal with investors like those will stay away.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that people in China have committed suicide because of their losses and we know that the property scandal has been a cause of concern to both the Chinese and Hong Kong Governments. It has also caused the bankruptcy of many small local businesses who failed to receive payment for work done.

This situation has been caused by professional greed and lax standards, government complacency in key fields of consumer protection and building safety and a ‘devil may care’ attitude from Liverpool Council as it sought to attract investment, at any price from any source, at any quality.

There were many ways in which Liverpool Council could have sought to strengthen its own planning role and used its powers of persuasion and exposure to stop some, at least, of the shaky investment. Instead it welcomed any developer which has left our City with a hotch potch of uncompleted and possibly never to be completed developments. Many of those blocks which were completed failed to give the promised yields and many more have been late in completion and late in paying out guaranteed rents. This has left many people who have raided their pensions to invest in what they thought was a one-way bet facing penury.

The professions have failed to cover themselves with glory.  Some members of the legal profession; chartered surveyors and estate agents seem to have thrown away normal concepts of good practice to create a ‘market place’ in which anything goes. There needs to eb a science to establishing values for properties which can be relied on. Solicitors should act only for one side or a contract without long established links with both sides. Estate agents should be subject to the same laws on describing an asset as any other company.

The Government needs to act on two aspects. Firstly, in bringing back into council oversight the signing off as habitable buildings before occupation. We have seen in Fox Street and Grenfell Towers the problems that can arise if the surveyor is employed by the developer. It appears that the developers needs have paramount importance and not the needs of the end user of the properties.

Secondly, the Government needs to allow Councils to have more power in deciding what is needed for the areas that they have been elected to run. Some of the planning problems which caused the problems were caused by the Council but equally the fact that the Government tries to micro-manage planning throughout the Country through the National Planning Framework, causes real problems. These problems are made worse by the fact that the NPF is really only relevant to London and the South East and certain housing pressure points such as parts of Cheshire.

One area that I do not stray into is legalities! The Police announced a review of certain sites and certain developers last year. In December a Developer and a council officer were arrested but have not been charged and may never be. I urge people not to speculate on the matter further as any speculation might lead to legal problems further down the line.

This is without a doubt a problem that the Council will end up dealing with for many of the blocks. Whilst it is really good to see the Norfolk Street site, which was derelict for 3 years, being completed this will not happen for many of the blocks which are wasting and rusting away.

But my report also makes 7 key recommendations to ordinary punters like me:

  1. If it looks good to be true it probably is! High returns only ever follow from high risk. That risk needs to be fully evaluated.
  2. Research the developer. How many times have they been in financial difficulty, what their development track record or what other even more difficult things can you find out?
  3. Never pay more than 10% of a property before it reaches practical completion and never the remaining 90% (with appropriate hold backs for snagging) until you are about to get the keys.
  4. Visit the area and find out for yourself what the area and the market look like.
  5. Look at sites like Zoopla to see how many properties are on the market in the area and what the resale value is.
  6. Always use your own solicitor. It’s never a good idea to use a solicitor recommended by a developer.
  7. Always get your own valuations and market projection from someone that you employ.

My full report will be sent you as a PDF if you email me at richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk

As ever I am interested in feed back about your thoughts on my thinking.

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Action demanded on regulations for AirBnB and other short term lets

Liverpool Lib Dems are asking for proper but light touch regulation of AiRBnB lettings to ensure they do not adversely affect permanent residents, are safe and are properly taxed.

My colleague, Childwall Councillor, Alan Tormey has written to the Secretary of State at MCHLG asking for action on the proliferation of unlicensed and unapproved AirBnB and other similar short let agencies in the City.

In his Letter Cllr Tormey says, “I have absolutely no problem with the idea of people letting out rooms or even whole houses on an occasional basis. However, many of these are located in the City Centre and in some areas dominate the area and specific blocks. 67% of these are whole unit lets and these are almost universally made available for the whole year.

·       Many of these are used at weekends for hen and stag parties and the like;

·       they generate large amounts of rubbish from presents and wrappings and bottles which are over and above the norm for a normal use of such units;

·       they fall into a peculiar grey area about whether they should be charged council tax or business rates;

·       there is anecdotal evidence that in some cases they have been used for prostitution purposes with the prostitute moving on before legal action can commence; and

·       there are concerns that some of the owners do not let the properties in such a way as to pay a variety of legitimate taxes and therefore undercut more established and public establishments.

Cllr Tormey says, “whilst we want to encourage a diversity of accommodation to attract people to our City, we must do so in a way that adversely exists local residents. Having a hen or stag party until 3 in the morning on a regular basis in a next-door property is damaging some people’s lives”.

There are now more than 2,500 such properties in Liverpool of which more than 1,100 are in a very small part of the City Centre. Many of these do not appear to have the regular checks on gas and other services which are required of any landlord.

Please let Cllr Tormey know of you are having any problems with short term holiday and weekend lets at alan.tormey@liverlibdems.org.uk.

Here is Alan’s letter to The Secretary of State

Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP,

Secretary of State,

MCHLG,

2, Marsham Street,
London SW1

7th February 2020

Dear Secretary of State

Re:       AirBnB and other short term lets

I am writing to you to express my concern about the unregulated nature of AirBnB and other short term lets. As a councillor in a weekend break city I have absolutely no problem with the idea of people letting out rooms or even whole houses on an occasional basis as it provides a valuable boost to our tourist economy by introducing a diversity into accommodation available.

I have absolutely no problem with the idea of people letting out rooms or even whole houses on an occasional basis. However, many of these are located in the City Centre and in some areas dominate the area and specific blocks. 67% of these are whole unit lets and these are almost universally made available for the whole year.

This has a number of effects which I list below:

1.     Many of these are used at weekends for hen and stag parties and the like. This means noise, drunken behaviour, and considerable late-night disturbance. For people who have bought as an owner occupier or even as a long-term renter this is incredibly distressful.

2.     They generate large amounts of rubbish from presents and wrappings and bottles which are over and above the norm for a normal use of such units.

3.     They fall into a peculiar grey area about whether they should be charged council tax or business rates.

4.     There is anecdotal evidence that in some cases they have been used for prostitution purposes with the prostitute moving on before legal action can commence.

5.     We have concerns that some of the owners do not let the properties in such a way as to pay a variety of legitimate taxes and therefore undercut more established and public establishments.

I do not believe that this type of use should be banned but it needs controlling and I would suggest the following measures.

i)                 That all whole use properties should need planning permission if they are to be let for more than 70 days a year.

ii)               The properties should be subject to the same safety checks for things like gas heaters and electrical safety as hotels, guest houses and privately rented accommodation.

iii)              Councils should be obliged to run a licensing scheme to ensure that all safety and planning aspects are adequately dealt with and subject to a charge designed not to make a profit but to manage the scheme.

iv)        A central register should be held of such lettable properties by HMRC to ensure that appropriate taxes can be levied by central government.

This proposal would not affect people who either just let out a room or two in their own premises or who occasionally let out their houses but would ensure that professional investors in these proposals are modestly but appropriately regulated for the good of their tenants and the communities within which they operate.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Alan Tormey

Cc:       Wera Hobhouse MP, Lib Dem Spokesperson MCHLG

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Liverpool must not set an illegal budget

Sorry Joe but your idea of not setting a budget for the City would be an absolute disaster. You would be repeating the mistakes of the Militant era at the request of the Momentum era.

In a moment of frustration last week Mayor Anderson told the city that he was considering not setting a budget next year and letting the Government set one.

I understand his frustration. Liverpool has suffered more than its fair share of cuts since 2010 and yes the Lib Dems were in coalition with the Tories for the first of those 5 years.

All Parties must share responsibility for cuts. 80% of the cuts made in the first three years of the Coalition were in fact put in place by the last budget of Gordon Brown’s Government. Just as we must all take some responsibility for the cuts, we must all rally round with the solutions and do our best to defend the City which is why I’m off to a meeting with the Mayor later today.

I have been around a long time now and I remember the circumstances of the last Government defiance. 33,000 people were issued with redundancy notices which caused a real and lasting shock to some people even though the redundancy notices were swiftly withdrawn. The budget which followed was declared to be illegal. Neil Kinnock ensured that the 47 were removed from the Labour Party and the Courts ensured that the Councillors were removed from office for breaking the law.

But the effects were much, much longer lasting than that. For more than 2 decades the only tiem a crane visited the city it had a wrecking ball on the end. That and the ‘Boys from the Black Stuff typified in people’s mind an attitude of Liverpool which was hard to shift. ‘Whinge City’ and ‘watch your hubcaps there’s a Scouser about’, were the prevailing sentiments that dragged our City down.

In fact, it took the application to become European Capital of Culture to sort out Liverpool’s credibility problem. Only when people had some confidence in the future of the City would they want to visit here, invest here or decide to live here. Give a dog a bad name and sticks for ages.

In political terms the way our City would be damned for another decade or two and its associated loss of jobs and growth would simply not be worth the gesture.

However, what we should all recollect is that there will not be an illegal budget set in Liverpool unless our three Chief Officers, the Chief Executive, Director of Resources and City Solicitor failed to do their job properly. They have their own legal duty to ensure that a legal budget is set. They are all three highly competent officers and would do what needed to be done to preserve the City’s financial position. This si not Northamptonshire where there was a clear break in due process within the political and officer structures within the Council.

If the politicians do not set a budget and allow our officers to do it then the Government Commissioners would come in, largely expert hands from local government, who would have the ultimate power to decide what happens in Liverpool for the following 2 or 3 years.

There is another way and Mayor Anderson knows what it is. We held a special council meeting in September and He, I and the Chief Executive all spoke about the same thing. The need to bring all public sector spending together in one coherent spending programme. Liverpool has a gross budget of about £500,000,000 when all the special grants and one-offs are added to our base budgets of business rate, council tax and charges. This is but a small part of the total spend in Liverpool which I estimate to be about 10 times that amount. It comes in the form of the NHS; DWP; Police; Fire; Waste Disposal; transport; Regional Mayor budgets etc, etc, etc.

The money comes in silos. Dribbled out by the Government in a bit here and a bit there. Governments always talk of the need to get value for money but they always seek to do so in terms of their particular range fo activities. The end result is a lot of wasteful expenditure not because any one part of the public sector is inefficient or incompetent but because the public sector as a whole does not join up its services ina logivcal way.

This is not only financially wasteful but has a poor impact on the loves of the people we serve. If we look at the ageing process, we can see people moving in a bewildered way from social care provided by the Council; to voluntary care to NHS care with lots of people taking separate decisions about the lives of those people who seem to have little input into the decision making themselves.

Take the problems of children in care. Up to 8 agencies can get together to look at the needs of families and children with problems with no one agency able to take key decisions about the future of a child. That is why we now have a record number of children in care which is rarely the best outcome for a child with problems.

Our offer to the Government must be that we can sort this out if they give us the authority to do so. This is not about creating new structures or organisations. Such actions would cost more than they would save and would take years to put into effect. Our action should be about joining up existing services in such a way that waste is abolished and the quality of service is improved.

Mayor Anderson and the Labour Party are not alone in this. At the special council meeting in September Lib Dems promised to support the process whilst reserving our right to tackle issues where we believe Labour are doing things wrongly. That offer still stands. To work together with all the partners in the City and make the Government an offer they cannot refuse, to finally bring common sense to bear on the provision of services and to join up service delivery in such a way as to improve outputs and reduce costs.

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Good health is impossible without good housing

No-one should have to call an entrance to a building site home in a Country which has the 6th biggest economy in the world. Bad housing causes bad health and early deaths. It can be dealt with if there is a consensus between political parties

Without a doubt one of the key determinants of health is the home you live in. Is it a home or is it just a place where you have to live? Is it adequate to your needs? Is It big enough? Is it warm? Does the roof leak? Is it set in a nice neighbourhood which is clean, green and safe? If, you can say yes to all these features then it is likely that you will be in good physical and mental health.

Unfortunately, too many of our fellow citizens can only answer no to most if not all of these questions. That means that a large number of people in every part of the Country suffer unnecessary ill health because of their living circumstances.

This seems to me to be blindingly obvious and has done since I first took responsibility for dealing with Liverpool’s homeless way back in 1975. This lack of comprehension in certain quarters led me to attend a series of workshops yesterday on the theme of health and housing. Interestingly, it was not arranged and led by any housing body like the National Housing Federation or Shelter but by the doyen of the medical establishment the British Medical Association. I was there to represent the Local Government Association and was delighted to find other councillors there from councils or who were also GPs or otherwise in the medical profession.

The BMA arranged the event because they see the effects in a variety of ways of poorly housed or homeless people boomeranging in and out of the NHS. This causes huge stress within the NHS; huge cost and, even more importantly, distress to the people themselves.

We heard some appalling facts about the cost of homeless in financial and personal terms:

  • We spend £1 billion every year on ‘temporary’ accommodation.
  • Poor housing leads to conditions which cost the NHS £1.4 billion every year to treat.
  • A man with long term homelessness is likely to die at the age of 44 and a woman at the age of 42.
  • 1.5 million tenants of private landlords have some element of dementia and landlords are totally unprepared for the increase in the number of their tenants with this condition.
  • If landlords were to evict these people there is nowhere for them to go.
  • Over the last 30 years the cost of housing benefit to the Exchequer has risen from £4 billion per year to £24 billion.
  • Governments of all persuasions have failed to meet their own new housing targets irrespective of tenure type for every year since 1974.
  • Between 1997 and 2010 the number of social homes declined by 330,000.

We saw a video of just such a human boomerang. He went to a hospital and was admitted to it 4 times in one year. When he got better and was fit, he was discharged to his home – a shop doorway 200 yards from the hospital!

Of course, there are many other problems caused by zero or poor housing. A safe home is a fundamental platform for life. Without a good home your chance of a good education is reduced. Without an address your likelihood of getting a job is reduced. If your home is in a dangerous area you don’t go out so you become lonely and are likely to suffer from depression and other mental illnesses.

Last year a commission established by Shelter estimated that the Country needed 3 million more social homes. Crucially for those that need to persuade a reluctant treasury this housing investment paid off within 40 years by the savings it created inside public sector budgets of many types. It would also have the much-needed effect of bring down the cost of private housing as well as the pressure on the housing market as a whole was reduced.

If this is so blindingly obvious why haven’t we built the social homes we need over the last 4 decades and why won’t we do it now? The answer comes because of an obsession with home ownership. Ironically yesterday the Tory Government introduced yet another scheme for subsidising home ownership.

There is now an alphabet soup of projects and schemes with this intent although there is clear evidence than all this does is put yet more money into the hands of mass house builders like Crest Nicholson and Redrow and encourage even more the growth of buy to let schemes which have so disfigured my own City of Liverpool.

I advanced two ideas on behalf of local government:

The first was to support the Shelter call for an investment in social housing.

The second was for a mandatory licensing scheme for private landlords which would be established nationally but delivered locally. There is such clear evidence now that bad landlords are causing people to live in appalling conditions which has a major effect on their health and therefore become a major burden on the NHS. The scheme would be backed up by moves to ensure that at the end of, say, a 3-year period housing benefit would not be paid to tenants of landlords who were not registered and who could not, therefore, prove that their units of accommodation were habitable.

I was then challenged to say what I thought the BMA’s next steps should be. My answer was to ask them to make an offer to Government and the other major parties to provide a ‘safe place’ to build a consensus over two areas of concern which are closely related housing and the growth in the numbers of elderly and especially infirm elderly.

Both of these require long-term solutions and solution which will, therefore, stretch over a number of Parliaments which will inevitably be led by different political parties. The buy in must be achieved if there is not to be a chopping and changing of policies which will inhibit long term planning.

Is this such a big ask? Can’t we really as a society accept that everyone has a decent place in which to live. Can we really not, as a society, understand that the consequences of poor housing is a huge financial burden on the state and appalling health conditions for too many or our citizens? We have the 6th biggest economy in the World and are about the 25th wealthiest in terms of GDP per head. We have the cash to deal with these issues if we choose to. I don’t believe that we have a credible or moral alternative.

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