What should you expect from your Councillor?

The latest L18 (Church Ward) Focus. We say we stand for ‘all year round action, not just at election time’ and mean it!

A lot of people have been asking me recently to comment on the work being done, or not done, by councillors in Kirkdale. This was prompted by my musings in a recent blog about the number of councillors required to do our job properly in the Council and in our communities. This, in turn, was prompted by the debate that we will be having in the Council on Wednesday about our response to the Boundary submission being forced on us by the Tory Government.

I am reluctant to respond to the Kirkdale challenge for two reasons:

  1. It is the electors right and duty to hold their councillors to account at the ballot box. They must judge what sort of councillor they want – a party label person or a community activist.
  2. None of the Kirkdale Councillors are Lib Dems. I have no control over councillors from another Party and can only challenge them at election time with increasingly good results across the City.

I do, however, have some control over what Lib Dem Councillors in Liverpool do. This is a very loose control because, by and large, we all see things the same way. We believe that Politics starts in the streets, neighbourhoods and communities and not in the Town Hall, Whitehall or the closed Party meeting.

Within the Council we expect our members to turn up, move motions, vote and contribute to discussions. Our Group has been very good at this and have a 90%+ attendance rate. This would be higher if meeting dates were not changed at relatively short notice. We have a good record of challenging polices from the Cabinet and Officers, putting motions down and working not only with other Parties but other organisations to ensure that the Council is doing the right things and that the Cabinet is held to account.

What makes us very different from others is that we expect a minimum standard of work within the communities that we represent. We expect Liberal Democrat Councillors to:

  • at least 6 times a year, outside elections, to issue to all residents a ‘Focus’ or similar leaflet to inform residents of what is going on locally and asking their opinion on local issues.
  • issue specific information letters on issues which need resident opinion before we can act. Typical of these are licensing and planning applications, traffic hazards and basic ‘street scene’ issues.
  • be readily available by Advice Centre or other means to talk to and listen to residents. Yesterday for example the Church Ward team were at our Advice Centre at the Farmers Market in Allerton Road for 4 hours.
  • be available to assist residents and other groups in our wards campaign on issues even if, sometimes, we disagree with them.
  • let people know how to find them and maintain easily available contacts for phone, amil and email.
  • visit at least half the homes in their ward outside election time just to chat with people and keep an eye on emerging issues.

We very rarely have to take action to ‘enforce’ such work. It is part of our political DNA. We do it to express our liberalism and because we believe that such actions are an important part of our work in showing that ‘liberalism’ is different from other political creeds.

Of course, within the above expectations we do lots of other things and do some things in different ways. Most of us tweet, issue press releases and some of us even blog!

On top of this community activism, we also need to earn a living, do our official council work; do work for our political Party. On average Lib Dem Councillors spend at least 20 hours a week on this wide range of council business. Oh, and I almost forgot most of us have families as well who expect us to spend at least some time with them.

Do your Councillors measure up to these sorts of standards? If they don’t you have two choices:

  • Kick them out and replace them with someone else at the next election.
  • Join us and work with us community by community to ensure that people get the service they both need and deserve.

I can’t go to the Town Hall and talk about what the people of this City want and need unless I first go and listen to them in their own community and on their own doorsteps. Being a councillor is my way of serving the community I live in. I didn’t join the Liberal Party, as we were then, 54 years ago because I wanted a political career and a fast rise to stardom. My colleagues and I are proud to be councillors; even prouder to be Lib Dem councillors and prouder still to be able to be councillors in the best City in the world.

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New Minister Gove urged to think again about Liverpool Council reorganisation

New Secretary of State for Communities, Michael Gove, might be prepared to undo a problem cretaed by his hapless predecessor, Robert Jenrick about the way that our City should eb governed.

I have today written to the new Communities Secretary, Michael Gove, asking him to think again about a decision to alter the Governance system in Liverpool made by his predecessor, Robert Jenrick.

In my letter I give 8 reasons why the changes are wrong and point out that no-one within or outside Government has been able to evidence why these changes will be advantageous to the people of the City.

As the longest serving City Councillor and has a huge experience of local government outside the City has given 8 reasons why he thinks the changes are wrong. These include:

  1. There are many pressures on core city Councillors in terms of community leadership. This is compounded in this City by the acute problems of poverty with approximately 60% of our communities being in super output areas.
  2. It is further compounded by the reduction in staff which means that councillors have to do a lot of community work that we would normally have staff for.
  3. As a core city we have to provide a wider leadership role in the sub region than colleagues on the remaining Boroughs
  4. Our communities are ever changing with some inner-city wards having a 30% turnover in the electoral role each year.

Given that the Council is almost certain to move to a consultation with the people of Liverpool with a view to abolishing the role of elected mayor I believe that maintaining a three member ward system with elections in 3 years out of 4 will provide the maximum stability for the Council and the maximum ability for the Council to effect the changes that are needed and contained in the 95% of the Caller report which everyone agrees with.

The full letter to Secretary of State Gove is attached.

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Liberal Democrat Office,

Liverpool City Council,

Cunard Building,

Water Street,

Liverpool L3 1AH

0151 233 0427

Richard.Kemp@Liverpool.gov.uk

16th September 2021

Rt Hon Michael Gove,

Secretary of State for Communities,

Marsham Street,

London

Dear Secretary of State,

Re:       Please think again about governance changes in Liverpool

Congratulations on being appointed as Secretary of State for Communities.

My purpose in writing to you is to ask you to urgently review a decision made by your predecessor Mr Jenrick relating to the governance of the Council, which is being discussed by Liverpool Council next Wednesday.

Although you are new to this post as a seasoned politician I am sure that you are aware that in December last year Mr Jenrick put an Inspection team into Liverpool led by Max Caller. In March he accepted a report from the Caller team and made directions as to future actions by the Council. This has been followed up by the appointment of Commissioners.

Much of the report and direction came as so surprise. Basically, it split the work of the Council in two. It recognised the great progress, in difficult circumstances, which was being made by the Chief Executive. It went on to talk about the many problems which the Council now had to deal with caused by low quality politicians and officers and a toxic culture within the Council.

However, Mr Caller moved far beyond his knowledge base when he strayed into discussing the governance of the Council. In short, he recommended:

  • A reduction in the number of councillors to 81;
  • Largely single member wards across the City
  • Four yearly elections.

Mr Caller has never been an elected member and has never worked in as complex an environment as a core city like Liverpool. His most notable tenure as a Chief Executive was in the small London Borough of Hackney. His last substantive role was as C-Ex of the Boundaries Commission which perhaps has informed his opinion as to number and boundaries but divorced him from a wider knowledge of how they relate into systems.

I believe that his proposals are wrong and will not lead to good governance but will introduce into our governance system an untried and unproven system for which neither he or MHCLG Ministers in the Lords, MHCLG, Mr Jenrick or our Commissioners have been able to justify in terms of their ability to improve the governance of the City.

As the longest serving member of the Council, a former Leader of the Lib Dems in Local Government at the LGA, which is where I first met you personally, a former Audit Commission Inspector and now a mentor helping system change within Councils nationally I want to explain why they are wrong:

  • There are pressures on our time on committees like the licensing and planning committees because of the huge interest in the private sector doing things.
  • For the foreseeable future we are going to be heavily involved internally in the reorganisation of the Council.
  • We know that in many councils with all up elections many councillors simply go to sleep for 3.5 years only to emerge, as if from hibernation, in the 6 months prior to an election. We simply cannot afford for that to happen in Liverpool ever and specifically not at this juncture.
  • Single members wards will mean that some of the wards will not be adequately covered by local representation where their councillors perform major roles in opposition or control or take up other regional or national positions.

We have already, as a City, had to suffer from innovative forms of Government with the creation of a City Mayor which has been the fount of many of our problems. I suspect that the Council will shortly decide to move to a consultation process with the aim of removing this position permanently. We simply cannot afford to be a test case for unproven and supported changes which in the opinion of long serving public servants like myself will lead to poor governance.

This is urgent because the Council is being forced by external timetables into a decision. I would be pleased to meet you in London next week to discuss the matters generally or specifically.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Kemp

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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Remembering the New York atrocities

One of the most iconic of the pictures taken post 9/11. Ground Zero still looked substantially like this 3 weeks later when I was taken to see it and to pay my respects on behalf of the people of Liverpool for those who had died.

I bet most of us remember what we were doing on 11th September 2001. Erica and I were on holiday in a small Greek Island called Tinos. We were in a very, very Greek and none-tourist restaurant up in the mountains when I looked up and saw that everyone was looking at a telly. On the telly were pictures of the WTC and they were so dreadful that I could only believe that they were some sort of horror movie.

I remember saying to Erica, “that’s a bit tasteless”, when the owner of the restaurant managed to get through to us that this was not a film it was for real.

I’d been to the WTC the year before and had eaten in the restaurant there. A great view indeed. But you didn’t need to have been there to know about the WTC which had formed the backdrop to whole series of films and current affairs.

Four days later when I got home, I immediately reversed a decision that I had made not to accept an invitation to talk at a housing conference in New York. I accepted it and, with two officers, went to New York not just to talk about housing but to show solidarity for the Council and people of New York from the Council and people of the City of Liverpool.

Whilst I was at the conference, which took place less than 4 weeks after the 9/11, I was asked with the other speakers if I would like to visit what had by then become known as ‘Ground Zero. We all accepted and after a hair-raising dash to my hotel in an official car with sirens blazing, I sombrely stood and reflected at what I saw.

The ‘remains’ of the building were substantially as in the picture above. Even after 3 weeks the smoke and steam were still rising. We had to wear a mask and were taken to a VIP platform where someone explained to us what was happening. You could see the towers were down but in an adjacent building there was still an engine and part of a wing which had sheared off after crashing into the WTC itself.

No-one knows how many people died that day. The people who were in the building has never been precisely calculated. The number of first responders is known and what brave people they were. They did what such people do. Whilst we leave a crisis, they move towards it to try and save the public and minimise loss.

No-one knows how many have died since. So many of the first responders who got out but then went back, to save what lives they could, ended up inhaling dust particles of all sorts of substances which have killed them by stealth in the ensuing 20 years. No-one knows how many people have died since from the broken hearts which can so often affect those left behind after tragedies of any sort.

Let’s leave the politics out of this particular discussion. Let’s just think of the people involved.

On the one hand a group of foul-minded and evilly intentioned jihadists.

On the other a group or ordinary everyday people from almost 100 Countries going about their business in all innocence and just getting on with their lives with no intention of harming anyone. There were innocent people in the 3 planes some of which fought back and gave their own lives to bring down one of the planes before it could attack the Capitol building.

In the middle the first responders who fought to save lives and, in many cases, gave their own.

Alongside all this, a bewildered Military who, for understandable reasons, found it extremely hard to work out what to do save their own President and other key figures to ensure that democracy would not be brought down. Within a couple of hours, they found their feet and stabilised the situation.

This situation like so many other brought out the best and the worst in people. A small number of people who are evil but a much larger number of people whose only desire is to support and assist the communities they live and work in and who can turn from ordinary citizen to superhero in seconds.

We mustn’t forget atrocities like these. We must remember that balance of good versus evil. We must be on guard to fight evil by reason, patience and kindness. However, when real evil threatens, we must not roll over but must fight force with superior force so that evil does not get the upper hand.

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A morning with our magnificent 999 services

The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Mary Rasmussen, giving the thanks of our City to the women and men of the “Blue Lights” services who keep our city safe.

This morning I spent the first part of the day at a small and quite informal event to commemorate ‘999 Day’. This is the day on which, every year, we commemorate and say “thank you” to those people who go out to work and may end up not coming home because their work involves protecting and safeguarding the rest of us.

Present were representatives of the Fire Service; Ambulance Service; Coastguard and, of course, people from 3 of the 5 Police Services that work in the City. As a simple test of your Scouse knowledge do you know which 5 Police services they are!?

The Council was represented at Officer level by Prof. Dr Matt Ashton the Council’s Public Health Director. He and his team have been very much on the front line of emergency delivery in the City as they have dealt with the threats of the Pandemic. At a political level it was represented by Cllr Mary Rasmussen our Lord Mayor, Cllr Jane Corbett and me.

I go to these events for two reasons:

Firstly, I want to acknowledge clearly and publicly the work that they undertake. Our City works because a lot of people are dedicated to its future both as professionals and as volunteers. On Friday I went to a service at the Catholic Cathedral for the same reason to acknowledge the tremendous role that they play through their parishes in the City’s spiritual and social care activities.

But our first responders are people who do risk life and limb on a regular basis on our behalf. Mercifully very few of them are killed or injured. That is because of their professionalism.

  • The Police know how to talk down people from bad decisions. It doesn’t always work but it normally does.
  • Fire Officers know to conduct urgent risk assessments to work out what can best be done with burning buildings or car accidents.
  • Our Ambulance Services are often dealing with people under the influence of drugs or alcohol and must know how to handle problematic people.
  • Our Coastguard service is one that we often forget about unless we are seafarers or boating enthusiasts. But if we are in danger on the sea or in an estuary, they are the ones that carefully calculate what can be done and who can do it.

Most of these professional services are augmented by volunteers. The Police have Special Constables, and are looking for more. The Coastguard can call in the RNLI; the Fire Service has volunteers who help at Fire Stations and with Fire Safety activity; and the ambulance works with Organisations like St John’s Ambulance at major events.

Secondly, though I go to learn so that I can be informed about what is going on so that I can get on with job of ‘knitting together’ these and other services. I have learnt all sorts of things this morning which I can talk about when I meet my fellow councillors, the people that I represent and the wider population of Liverpool.

We often see or read in the media about some of the actions that these people take in extreme situations. We don’t hear about the Police officers who deliver loads of small actions with the community to keep us safe from harm or criminal activity. We see the blue lights flashing for all the services but never see the quiet stuff and the prevention activities which pursue.

Most people do not realise that on many occasions the services join up as one team in a system of bronze, silver or gold commands. Depending on what the problem is a different person from a different organisation will be leading it. A major fire, for example, will be led at incident level by a senior fire officer. A big demo or civil disturbance by the Police; whilst at City level it has been the Council which has been ‘Gold Command’ for all the pandemic activities.

I particularly wanted to attend today because of the tremendous work these organisations have done during the pandemic. I hope that when I said ‘Thank You’ today to the representatives of these organisation I did so on your behalf as well. We stood in silence for 2 minutes to remember those that didn’t go home and lost their lives whilst protecting ours.

We live in a relatively safe and protected society because we plan for bad things and hope that those things do not occur. But when they do, we can all sleep easier in our beds because of the great work of the Blue Lights teams.

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Bungling Boris Botches Health & Care Reforms

Erica and I are fortunately still in good health. But having brought our children up and given them a good start in life, if our house has to be saved if we go into long-term care so be it.

In face of long-term funding and other issues in Health & Social Care Bungling Boris has managed to try and get the money from the wrong place for the wrong reasons. He appears to be making no intelligent attempt to reform the system but seems content to apply an ever bigger sticking plaster.

When in 2019 Johnson told the Country that he had reforms ready to hand to deal with the growing problems of social care no one really believed him. For 6 years the Tories have promised a Green or White Paper which would address the issues. 10 different dates have been given for the launch of this publication. None appeared.

Now, with the NHS crisis as well, solutions have been plucked from the air based more on ideology than reason. Yes, the NHS has real problems caused by Covid. No, we can’t bring back the money splurged on ineffective track and trace and apps that were of limited value. Yes, the NHS can only work if we give it more money in the short-term. The key question is, “where should that money come from”.

My answer is a taxation and not an NI increase but I don’t believe that any ordinary individuals should need to pay more tax. The fact is that there are too many loopholes which allow people to get away with paying lower tax than most of us would think is fair. Huge corporations siphon off money to tax havens by the judicious use of lax capital allowances regulations. They then pay ‘service charges’ to parts of their company based in tax havens.

The same applies to wealthy individuals. There is a massive industry in this Country dedicated to helping rich people find tax loopholes, Regrettably, because of the huge number of regulations, this can be done too readily and HMRC is always playing catch up.

But if we ignore those obvious things to do that no Tory will touch, and assume that you and I must pay more then the only fair way to do this is to use income tax and not national insurance as the route.

National insurance really is an unfair ‘tax’. It starts to be collected at a lower level than income tax and stops at about £65k. It is not collected on other income such as that from investments of which a huge percentage is ‘earned’ by a small number of people. Some people, like me, don’t pay NI at all. I still work but as I’m over 65 (only just!) pay no NI so I keep a higher proportion of my income.

On top of that I am fortunate enough to be a home owner. The value of our home has increased by 500% since we bought it back in 1994. We’ve done some improvements to it but basically our biggest capital growth has not been one we ‘earned’ but which happened through outside circumstances.

I have no problem with the idea that our assets should be used, if necessary, to pay for care for Erica and I if we become old and infirm. We’ve given our kids a good start in life. We’ve even put something aside for our grandchildren. Why, if we cannot live in our home anyway, should it not be used to pay for our costs in another home? If we do get a lifetime cap for our social care, as proposed by Andrew Dilnot 10 years ago, Erica and I could begin to plan our own resources better and give a little more to our children and grandchildren now instead of keeping reserves, “in case”.

All this talk of money ignores the fact that under Johnson’s plans we will spend the money on the wrong things. In my 6 years as Lib Dem spokes on Health & Care at the LGA, which came to an end in August, I continually argued for increased spending on public health and health prevention. When 30%+ of our hospital beds are occupied by people with drugs, obesity or alcohol induced illnesses we should know the way forward.

Keeping people healthy by helping them with a variety of problems early in their lives gives them a much better life and could save the NHS a fortune. Not preventing preventable ill health means that our NHS is keeping open hospital beds that could actually be withdrawn. Instead we have seen year on year real term cuts to our public health budgets.

Budgets which would address problems such as poor housing and poor air quality have also been slashed. The ultimate price of not spending a small amount now is wasted lives and spending loads more money later.

Finally, how could I as a Remainer not point that according to Johnson this money is totally unnecessary. The amount being put into health and social care this week is dwarfed by the £350 million a week that we have saved by coming out of the EU!! Hang on, let me think about that assertion!

Instead of a reasoned argument which had been tested by public discussion and into which all Parties could provide support we are getting a dogmatic approach designed to appease the right-wing thugs in his own Parliamentary Party and a core base which argues for selfishness and greed.

Over the past 5 days I have about 50 people come to my door to leave donations of goods, cash and new bought products to help Afghan refugees. Johnsons’ appeal does not seem fair to them or me. The true British spirit is one that lends a hand to those in need and believes in fairness and sharing. I actually think that this is a majority of the British people. Perhaps, at the next election we can find a way of working together to defeat the selfish, nasty people who make short-term decisions in favour of the wealthy minority.

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The generosity of Scousers is stunning!!

My room is never very tidy but it’s usually better than this. It’s now stuffed with bags and boxes full of new and used stuff, all of high quality, to be delivered to organisations that support refugees on Tuesday.

On Thursday one of my residents contacted me to ask where he could drop some stuff for the Afghan Refugees coming to Liverpool. I replied, “drop them off at my house because I’ve got some stuff to take as well”.

I then thought that I would see who else might want some stuff taking down so I put a note on the ‘My Liverpool 18’ Facebook page. Within a couple of hours 6 more bags appeared!

I then went away for two days starting with some activities in Liverpool and then on to do some work in Durham. As I was on the train, I noticed a lot of activity on my email so I went through them and found a huge number of people who wanted to contribute.

I’ve now got a full front room and hall and I know that there is still more to come today and tomorrow. It’s not only the amount of stuff but the quality that is amazed. A lot of the children’s clothes are new or hardly used. Well kids grow so fast don’t they? But all the clothing that has been dropped off  for children, men or women young or old is in great condition and properly cleaned and ironed.

It’s not only clothes that have come in. New blankets, toys and books as well as high quality second hand stuff. There’s a whole load of toiletry and sanitary products that have been bought especially. There’s even a load of sweets and treats for the kids. (I have promised that I won’t even pinch one of them!).

Interestingly, every single one of the people who have been in touch with me with one exception is a woman. Is it the maternal instinct which makes women react so positively to other families and children in distress?

In this Country there is a lot of anti-foreigner sentiment largely caused by the Brexit movement who spread their foul lies about foreigners and the problems that they cause. These people make a hell of a lot of noise but they don’t represent the vast majority of people in this Country.

A true British spirit, if I tried to define it in such a way, is one of generosity and openness. They see a child in need and don’t see a burden to society but a child that needs help. They see Mums and Dads who risked all for our Country’s international interests and who they will not see jettisoned when they no longer are needed.

Of course, it’s not only Afghan refugees they care about but all refugees. Despite the ill effects of Brexit, which are making us poorer, we are still a wealthy Country who should be maintaining its global reputation by helping others. That’s waht most of know insticnitevly. The deadful approach of Johnson and Patel does not show our Country at its best and does not represent us accurately on the World stage.

If we are not being selfless about this, we should be selfish. The people that come to our Country are rarely a burden. They come to build a new life for themselves and their families. By doing so they bring vital skills and determination to our Country which we will all benefit from. These people will become an asset to our Country and not a burden.

What is true of our Country is also true of our City. Liverpool is a great City precisely because it is, “the World in One City”. Our melting pot of different people and different cultures is what is making Liverpool strong. Yes, we have problems here but the people now arriving will help us deal with hem and will make an even stronger Liverpool in the future.

More than one third of all the Councils in England have offered to help resettle Afghan refugees. With few exceptions they are led by Labour or Lib Dems. Many of them are already coping with problems but have a basic humanity and desire. The richest areas which have the most resources do little to help. I am sure that many of their residents want to help but the leadership of those councils can make Scrooge look to be the epitome of generous humanity.

Meanwhile back in Liverpool the warm-hearted generosity of my fellow Scousers makes me be proud to live here and represent some of them. So, as I now try to work out how to get all this stuff to people, I give my thanks to everyone who donated and who will continue to do so.

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Burma’s Cardinal, Charles Bo excoriates leaders of illegal military coup who fail in their responsibilities to the country’s people.He says they have…

Burma’s Cardinal, Charles Bo excoriates leaders of illegal military coup who fail in their responsibilities to the country’s people.He says they have…

Burma’s Cardinal, Charles Bo excoriates leaders of illegal military coup who fail in their responsibilities to the country’s people.He says they have…
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WE MUST SORT OUT SOCIAL CARE FUNDING

If we are to prpeorly fnd the care that we all believe is needed by ourselves and our loved one. in old age we must fnd fair ways to fund it.

Do you remember how, during the 2019 General Election PM Johnson lied to us? Of course you do, but the lie that I am particularly referring to is the one about social care.

He told us that he had proposals cut and dried and ready to bring forward. Well it’s getting on for two years now and we still haven’t seen any proposals come forward although there were a whole 9 words about the issue in the Queens Speech earlier this year.

There are two pressures on social care only one of which is recognised. The biggest area is the growing number of the elderly, which leads to an increasing number of frail elderly pensioners.

The second pressure is from the number of people who will live with severe conditions which need social and medical care for the whole of their lives. Caring for some of these people can cost up to £100,000 if we want them to have as fulfilling a life as possible but most have costs which are much below this but still substantial. The only way that this can be provided is by the national taxpayer.

Taxpayers must also be a part of the solution by paying more to fund social care, according to the former Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt who suggested this should be through a tax rise rather than a national insurance rise that “disproportionately targets” the young. I agree with him. We cannot fund the needs of the elderly by aggressively taking money from young people who already are facing huge housing costs and many have debts from University education that will take them well into middle age to pay off when they will have to start saving for their pensions!

The government is understood to be looking at increasing national insurance rates by at least 1% to fund its plans to fix the long-term funding of the crumbling social care system, with Downing Street recommending a 1% increase, the Treasury 1.25%, and the Health Department 2%.

As Hunt observes “It is a wonderful miracle that we are living longer, but one with dramatic consequences for NHS and care expenditure A 50-year-old man costs the NHS just under £500 on average – but by the time he is 85, that rises to nearly £4,000. Our hospitals will be 40% busier in 15 years’ time, according to one study.”

The Government has made clear that its intentions are not yet clear! No final decision had been taken by the government on how this was to be achieved.

Hunt, who was health secretary between 2012 and 2018 and led on social care policy for his final six months in the role, said a national insurance rise would mean the proposals would be funded primarily by young, working-age people, and instead recommended the imposition of a “health and social care premium”.

The government has said that proposals for a long-term plan to reform the social care system would be set out later this year in response to estimates from Health and Social Service providers that they will require a £10bn boost over the next three years. BUT we have been hearing this for more than 6 years ago. I have just given up the position of Lib Dem lead on health after 6 years. In 2015 one of my first jobs was to go for a meeting with DoH officials to finalise proposals. Six years later we are still waiting.

The sums involved are huge. They need a real funding mechanism and not some fudged nonsense which will tide us over for a couple of years. No more can be squeezed out of Council tax payers because this is a grossly unfair and inequitable way of funding social care so the solution must largely be either tax or NI increases. In their 2019 manifesto, the Tories pledged not to increase the rate of income tax, VAT or national insurance. But that’s their problem not mine!

Whatever proposal comes forward it is likely to include the decade-old report by Dilnot which proposed imposing a lifetime cap on the amount individuals would have to pay for care. The independent commission chaired by the economist Andrew Dilnot suggested £25,000-£50,000 as an appropriate level, but today’s figure could be closer to £100,000.

If many people knew that there was a cap, they could plan for it. The claim from some is that they shouldn’t have to give up their ‘hard earned assets’ which they want to leave to their children. For many of us though our assets are likely to include houses which have grown in value at more than twice the rate of inflation and pensions which we received tax concessions for. I believe it is right that people like Erica and I should use some of our savings to care for ourselves in old age. The kids can have whatever is left. We have already given them a lot of help in a variety of ways in adulthood and still do!

In England, social care is generally not provided free of charge. Typically, only those with savings and assets worth less than £23,250 can get help from their council. There is no overall limit on costs, meaning thousands every year sell their homes to pay for social care. A cap is a much better, and fairer way of providing extra cash for service provision than a long-term sequestration of houses after death.

This is an urgent matter. Changes of this nature take years to work into the system and become fully deliverable. Politicians of all Parties have dodged the bullet on this for at least 30 years since it became clear that the number of elderly people was rising. Bluffer Boris now must deliver on his promises so that we can all plan for the future.

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Liverpool schools boss issues update on Covid testing and isolation

Our Exec Director for Schools, Steve Reddy and Director of Public Health, Matt Ashton have written to all parents in Liverpool advising them what to do in the continuing Covod Pandemic

This article was published by Liam Thorp and the Liverpool Echo whose authorship we acknowledge.

Liverpool’s schools boss and the city’s public health director have written to parents with a key Covid update ahead of the new school term.

Thousands of children and young people will be returning to the classroom this week, with concerns that this could lead to surging rates of the virus.

Government rules, brought in on August 16, state people under the age of 18 years and six months – or those who are fully vaccinated – are no longer legally required to self-isolate if they are a close contact of someone who tests positive for Covid.

Instead such people will be advised to take a PCR test.

Writing to parents to outline the new policies ahead of the new term, Liverpool Council Director of Children’s Services and Public Health Director Matt Ashton said: “Regardless of age or vaccination status, anyone who develops any of the three main Covid-19 symptoms – new continuous cough, fever and/or loss of or change in taste or smell – must get a PCR test as soon as possible and isolate until the result is available. People who get a positive PCR test must continue to isolate as usual.”

The letter makes clear vaccinations are currently available to people aged 16 or above and in certain other circumstances, adding: “This may change, and if so we will be back in touch.”

The letter adds vaccination uptake in Liverpool is significantly lower than the national average.

Currently 88% of eligible UK residents have had a first jab, while 77% have had both, while in Liverpool those respective figures are 69% and 57%.

The letter states: “We strongly encourage all eligible Liverpool residents to come forward for their 1st and 2nd dose of the vaccine to prevent new restrictions being imposed on the city.”

Speaking directly to parents and carers, it adds: “If your child develops any of the main symptoms, you must arrange for them to have a PCR test as soon as possible.

“Your child should self-isolate immediately and they should not attend school.

“Please contact the school by phone to inform us your child has Covid-19 symptoms and you are awaiting a test.”

The letter adds that if Covid is confirmed for a child, they must self-isolate for a period of 10 days after the onset of their symptoms or 10 days after their test day if they are asymptomatic.

It adds: “Self isolation means your child should not go to school, attend any school activities or visit a friend’s house. They should not visit any public places, use public transport or go out to exercise. You should not have visitors into the home except those providing essential care.”

Parents are asked to contact the school by phone to inform them if their child has Covid, adding: “It is really important that you let us know if your child has confirmed Covid-19 so we can monitor the number of children with Covid-19 across the school.”

The letter confirms the new rules which mean that if a child aged under 18 years and six months does not have any symptoms, they will not have to isolate as a contact of someone with Covid-19.

They will be advised to take a PCR test instead.

If a child has a positive result from a Lateral Flow test, they should isolate immediately and arrange a PCR test as soon as possible.

The letter also covers plans for Covid-19 testing in Liverpool’s secondary schools.

It states: “All secondary school pupils (year 7 and above) should receive two on-site Lateral Flow device tests, 4 to 5 days apart, on their return in the autumn term.

“We are also advising that students take a Lateral Flow test before returning to school for onsite testing.

“Secondary school pupils should then continue to test twice weekly at home until the end of September, when this will be reviewed.

“By ensuring your child correctly carries out the Lateral Flow tests, it will be easier to spot asymptomatic spread amongst pupils. A positive Lateral Flow test should always be followed up with a PCR test and the person testing should isolate until the results are back.”

There are no plans at this point to test nursery and primary school pupils.

Mr Reddy said: “It’s so important that we all work together to support the amazing staff who work in our schools so they can open safely, we know we simply can’t afford for our young people to miss another single day of their education, their and our city’s future depends on it.”

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Liverpool and The Great Irish Hunger

Kitty Wilkinson, the Irish Saint of the Slums who established the wash houses to help with the appalling squalor in which many Irish migrants lived in the 1840s

I have just got back from spending a sunny morning in Liverpool wandering around most of the Heritage Trail which marks the role that Liverpool played during the Irish Famines and the role that the Irish have played in our City since then.

I must admit it was a real eye-opener. Of, course, I was aware of the role of the City and the influence of the Irish in the City. I have often boasted about being the 5th biggest Irish City and talked of the clear bonds between Liverpool both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The scale of what has happened though was beyond my comprehension. As I went around, I not only thought about that Irish role but also the influence that all migrant communities can have in the place they choose to settle.

I didn’t actually know that there was a Heritage Trail until Greg Quiery came to see me about problems with the way that the Famine Memorial is being treated in what is supposed to be a council park at the side of St Luke’s, the Bombed-out church, in Leece Street. I have taken this up with Council but as yet have had no response.

The famines of the 1840s caused by the failures of the potato harvest and the attitudes of landlords caused millions of people to leave Ireland in search of a new life, or at least just full bellies. Many went on to what were then the British colonies. Many, however stayed. Many died because of their weak condition. Many tried to establish a life here but in absolutely disgusting conditions.

What kicked in was self help as it does in most migrant communities. The undoubted heroine was Kitty Wilkinson the so-called, “Saint of the Slums”. Until recently hers was the only female statue in St Georges Hall where she was surrounded by a pantheon of men. She was honoured for her single-minded determination to provide clean clothing and clean bodies for the poor.

Her wash houses lasted until the 1980s and in 2018 a new community led launderette was opened, Kitty’s wash house, to serve the same, albeit reduced need to today.

The oldest school in the City is Pleasant Street some of those original buildings still exist where they have been converted into apartments. Education and hard work are the epitome of migrant communities as they are determined to give their young people a chance of life that they themselves did not have.

Life in the ‘Courts’ was grim. “Six in a bed at the Old Pier Head”, would have seemed like a luxury. Cramped, squalid conditions led to terrible lives and early deaths. In Lace Street 181 people died in just three months in 1847. The alternative was poor relief and the workhouse.

The Metropolitan Cathedral is built on the site of the Brownlow Hill workhouse which was the largest in Britain. Stern guardians dealt out misery and proscription in return for meagre food and shelter.

Food was dispensed at a ‘Relief Station’ in Fenwick Street. Up to 4,500 people, of which 75% were Irish, could be fed in a day.

I didn’t visit the whole of the Trail. I don’t mind going over the sea to Ireland but baulked at the idea of crossing the Mersey to Birkenhead! Erica and I do hope to visit Louth in the company of our friend, Sen John McGahon to see the ‘other’ end of the famine when travel becomes freer again.

So, two thoughts immediately came to mind:

  1. Just the tremendous contribution the Irish have made to our City. Much of what we now see and know has been created by our Irish Citizens. Large elements of our welfare state were created by people like Kitty Wilkinson and Father Nugent whose organisation, Nugent Care, provides great services in the City to this day. It was the scale of the population that just shocked me as I wandered round the Trail. It really challenged some of my perceptions about the roots of modern-day Liverpool.
  2. It made me think about all migrant communities and the role they play in developing our modern times. Liverpool has not only been shaped by the Irish but also by the descendants of West African and Caribbean seamen who married and had children in our City. We have the oldest Chinese Community in Europe and the first mosque in the UK. We are indeed, “the World in One City”.

Later generations include those from S.E. Asia and Eastern Europe. All bring their traditions, faiths, music, skills and cuisines to make Liverpool, and the wider UK, what it is today. They too practice self-help and support, have a strong belief in education and go on to help shape the area that they live in.

As a Lib Dem I welcome migration to our Country and City. The fusion of those different cultures and behaviours creates a stronger future than a mono-cultural community which looks solely to the past.

I’m now going to find out more by getting a copy of Greg’s book, ‘In hardship AND HOPE’, which I am reliably informed can be purchased at News from Nowhere in Bold Street.

If you have got a minute you too can be challenged by the Heritage Trail. Two hours walk and some thinking in our lovely Liverpool. I can’t think of a better way to spend Sunday morning.

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