“We must work together on behalf of the people” plea to all Liverpool Parties

I really hope that the other four Council Groups will accept the Liberal Democrat call for greater cooperation after the local elections

In advance of the close of nominations for the Council on Tuesday I have written to the other four Group Leaders in Liverpool asking all political parties within the Council to support five key pledges relating to how they will behave after the election to create the Council that is needed to finally create a strong future for the city after a decade of waste and corruption.

Although there has been an improvement within the council that I have acknowledged, there is still a long way to go before Liverpool becomes a ‘normal’ council. We believe that the way forward must be for politicians to minimise their differences after the election and maximise the many things which they share.

In practice the problem in Liverpool has not been about ideology but about the leadership given to ensure that the Council runs efficient. It is not a judgement on left or right but between competence and incompetence.

This has been added to by the fact that there has been no long-term strategy from the Council for the City. Instead, there has been a series of short-term measures many of which were wrong. Even had they been right they did not add up to enough to keep Liverpool moving forward in these times of great stresses and changes.

The world is changing around us with climate change, IT and technology changes, societal changes and challenges caused by the way we have crashed out of Europe. There will inevitably be differences between what the political parties in Liverpool want to see as the long-term future for the city. However, many of the differences are minor and we will create a strong city if we concentrate on those things on which can agree on and jointly work together to deliver them.

We need to move away from the normal political concept of control and opposition to create a ‘Team Liverpool’ in which we work together on behalf of the people to root out the remaining problems of corruption, mismanagement, and incompetence.

Clearly, up to Election Day it is right that we set out to the people of our city our differing views on how the city council and the city will progress. Liberal Democrats will be fighting hard to maximise our position and influence within the council. We have completed a detailed manifesto indicating our plan for the four years which we will launch shortly after Easter.

I have written today to the other four Group Leaders within the Council asking them to commit to these common-sense proposals preferably before the election but if necessary after it. I really hope that they will agree to these very sensible proposals which I know, having talked to hundreds of people on their own doorsteps in the past few weeks is what the people of Liverpool want as well.

Five key pledges for Liverpool Council Group Leaders

In view of the severe problems which still exist within Liverpool Council we, the Group Leaders of the five council groups in Liverpool, pledge to:

  1. Work together wherever possible to resolve outstanding issues of honesty, probity and governance. Supporting each other when we can but opposing each other when we need to.
  • Specifically work together to ensure that all Parties are involved in the scrutiny process around the key decisions and strategies of the Council both reactively and proactively.
  • Ensure that all Parties will be represented on all outside bodies and committees and committees within the Council on a basis based on the proportionality of numbers within the Council.
  • Ourselves behave in such a way as to show that we provide leadership on the proper behaviour of all councillors in the city in terms of mutual respect, listening to each other, opposing and discussing different views and debating in a civilised way and generally acting courteously at all times in our relationships with other councillors and with council staff.
  • Actively encourage our councillors to participate in all training activities to increase the knowledge and skills of all councillors.
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Another seedy scandal hits Liverpool Town Hall

Yet another scandal has appeared inside Liverpool Council, they appear more frequently than Trans-Pennine Trains, involving the use of council resources for political purposes.

As we approach council elections on May 4th in which all councillors will be up for election another smaller but important scandal has emerged. This time it clearly involves a Liberal Councillor and a Labour Councillor but these may be just the tip of the iceberg.

In Waterfront North Ward the Labour candidate for the Ward has been using the council mailing system to give the impression that he is already the Councillor for a ward that does not yet exist and will not until May 4th. He has received a warning from the City Solicitor.

In Wavertree Village Ward the Liberal candidate (please note that he is nothing to do with the Liberal Democrats) has been using the council system to send letters to people in the ward he hopes to represent and not the ward that he does represent.

The ability of councillors to use the mail system to get out information to their community about local actions and things that the council is doing is a great tool for councillors who usually have to balance jobs and family life as well as council work. This clearly is something that could be abused and council officers are supposed to keep a check on this.

I occasionally use the mailing system myself specially to get information out to people about things like planning applications and council actions within the ward such as street closures. Of course, this is a supplement to the Liberal Democrat Focus and newsletters that we put out and are paid for by us and donations from members.

The key difference is that in our own leaflets we can choose to be political and can say what we consider to be right. In the case of council mailings, we are simply described as councillors and must give strictly accurate information and contact details. This split is clearly right.

I am outraged if this system has been abused for party political purposes. Taxpayers have paid enough for political excesses inside the Council, and they should not have to pay to subsidise political activity which should rightly be paid for by political parties.

I have written to the Head of Democratic Services, Mike Jones asking him to name and shame councillors who have abused the facility after his due investigation is completed.

I have also insisted on the Councillors concerned paying back the full cost of the abuse, including the staff costs. I doubt that a Liberal Democrat Councillor is involved here, and no name has been put forward of a Liberal Democrat committing and abuse of the system but if they were I would insist on a full repayment to the council and an apology. That should be insisted on by the Leaders of any of the Council political groups if their members are caught out.

This raises, in my mind, what level of service people should expect from their councillors. In Liberal Democrat Wards there is a regular stream of information in the form of our own leaflets, newsletters, newspapers, street letters, usually paid for by us, and occasional information leaflets. In Church Ward we also put out a weekly e-newsletter to 1,800 local residents although a few of these are outside our ward.

We supplement this by being readily available to people either through regular advice centres or, where this is not practical by visiting people or having them visit us. We spend a lot of time on the streets and within our communities just being available to talk. I have most of my casual conversations when out in the Penny Lane Ward which I hope to represent after May 4th when I am out litter picking and people pop out for a natter!

But I always saddened but not surprised when I go out on the streets in wards we hope to represent that this sort of service just does not exist. “We only see our Councillor when there is an election on” is a common comment. “We never know what is going on in the community or the Council because our Councillors are never in touch” is another comment we hear regularly.

This lack of involvement will get worse because of the 4 yearly election cycle that the Government has forced on us. At least lazy councillors are forced into action from January onwards in an annual election system. Now there will be many councillors who will disappear from 3 years and 8 months and only wake up and promise action and being visible from January to May every fourth year.

I would ask you to judge people on their record. If they are not out in the community listening to what local people say and then take that back to the Council Committees and Council Chamber then they are simply acting as politicians. If you ever come to the Council Chamber you will easily distinguish between councillors who see themselves as community champions and those who are merely Party automatons.

If you did not hear from them before January this year since the last election you can prepare to be abandoned for the next 3 years and 8 months!

I’ll try and sort out this latest scandal within the Council. Will you try and sort out the scandal of people who are your representatives in name only and replace them with people who do care and have a track record of consistent work within your community.

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If music be the food of love…….

All three of the young people here started their musical experiences in years 6 and 7 in schools in deprived parts of Liverpool. They played for us yesterday at the Phil with confidence and vitality.

Some people would say that yesterday I took some time off from my real work as a councillor to go with Erica to a concert given by young people from two of the most deprived wards in Liverpool at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

I would disagree. Part of the work of a councillor is to go and support great people doing wonderful things in our communities. Yesterday was absolutely wonderful.

In total about 300 young people came to sing, play a variety of musical instruments in a variety of settings. We heard classical music, jazz, locally inspired and written music in a wonderful medley of sound and pleasure. All of the performers were under 11 (well except for their teachers of course who joined in with some of the difficult bits). My favourite was a song written by two young junior school children about diversity which had music written for the entire orchestra by one of the Phil’s professional musicians.

There is no doubt in my mind that this experience will stay with those young people for the whole of their lives. Most of them will not go on to fully develop their musical talent but some will. We met yesterday with 18 years olds playing to a very high level who had themselves started at the age of 7 or 8. Some have gone on to start advanced courses which will enable them to play professionally if that is what they choose.

Getting a career from music is not necessarily the aim of the programme. The aim is to try and even up the scales when it comes to musical experience. Too often our youth orchestras and the like are full of children who come from middle class backgrounds whose parents have the time and the resources to support their endeavours. Why should children who come from poorer backgrounds whose parents are equally supportive not enjoy the same experience.

As I watched the children perform I could see confidence in them growing by the minute. Playing in a place like a major concert hall is a daunting experience even for professionals. These youngsters took it in their stride!

It is always easy to characterise classical music as just a middle or upper class preserve and it is true that this is what you see when you go to many a performance at the Phil. But it does not have to be that way. The schools programme exists not only because Liverpool Council, the Arts Council and other organisations back this work but because a lot of sponsorship comes from the Philharmonic regulars. They also turned up in force to enjoy the programme.

So why classical music? Do I regard it as THE form of music because I happen to like it? Do I think it superior to other musical forms on that basis. Absolutely not. Any music that people enjoy playing or listening to is good music. Whether you like that particular genre is a matter of taste and not intelligence or an overwhelming cultural superiority.

What I do believe is that people should have the freedom to experiment a try and range of cultures and opportunities and what better time to do it when they are young? The children playing yesterday were incredibly proud to be there as were their Mums and Dads (and grandmas and grandpas!)

Pop cultures are readily available in a variety of formats. They are almost all-pervasive. Classical music is not as well known. Yes, there are two national radio stations who provide nothing but classical music. They are enjoyed by millions of people but largely unknown outside those millions. Or perhaps maybe, the position is not they are unknown, but a lot of people assume that the music is too highbrow and not for them. Such thoughts would have been easily dispelled yesterday.

I believe that music plays a vital part in our community and in our mental health. Playing it usually means teamwork and community and social interaction. This does not have to be formal it can be just for fun. More than 100 ukelele plays recently turned up to play together at the Florence Institute in Liverpool.

They were all, I’ll put it gently, at the other end of the age range from those I saw yesterday, but they go to enjoy, to take part, to deliver outputs in partnership with loads of other people. That keeps them mentally alert, keeps them fit, keeps them active provides them with challenges none of which would be achieved if they just sit at home watching the telly.

Two of my neighbours are professional cellists. One is the internationally renowned Jonathan Aasgaard . who is the principal cellist at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. His wife, Georgina, uses her cello as an important therapeutic tool through an community outreach programme run by the RLPO and Merseycare. She plays in prisons and community centres, in hospitals and pubs. She is part of a network of highly talented musicians who help our communities through music. Indeed, she is currently undertaking a doctorate on the subject to get more people understanding that Proust can be better than pills, and Mendelsohn can be better than medicine.

My thanks and congratulations go to all those who took part in yesterday’s event. It took a lot of organisational activity by the Philharmonic staff, music teachers and parents to make it work. It took enthusiasm from the children to make it sparkle. It is a concert that I really enjoyed and will book for next year as soon as the date become available.

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The Sheriff of Nottingham’s Tory Budget

We needed a Robin Hood budget yesterday for the poorest paid but got a Sheriff of Nottingham budget. But what would you expect from a Tory Government?

Our childhood stories tell us of a hero, Robin Hood who took from the rich to give to the poor. Yesterday it was the Sheriff of Nottingham’s turn. Sunak gave to the rich and took from the poor.

So how has Sunak taken from the poor? Surely there was no mention of that in his budget – no new tax measures aimed at the bottom of the pile where most of us reside. That is because he did not do anything yesterday because it was all contained in a previous budget.

Two years ago the Tories introduced what is technically termed, fiscal drag. What it means in practice is the rate at which you start paying tax or the higher rate of tax does not rise in line with inflation. So, you might get paid more but you pay a higher proportion in tax.

For people in lower incomes this is effectively a 10% cut in living standards as the tax increase gets ‘added’ to the fact that most people have had pay increases 5% less than inflation.

For people in middle incomes say between about £30,000 and £80,000 they will lose roughly the same proportion.

Over that level there could be huge savings for the wealthiest 1% of the population. Effectively, they will be able to save as much as they like and the Government will give you 40% of back as a tax relief. This will make an unfair system even more unfair. Of course, we should save for retirement of we can. But why do wealthy people already get a 40% tax rebate whilst the rest of us get a 20% rebate? On what definition of fair is that fair?

The justification for this is that might tempt a few senior medics back into service as they have given up because they don’t get the full value of their pension. That may be true but the key word here  is a few! The big gainers here will be the high paid across the private sector, the Bankers and the Chief Executives of big companies. The people with big investments and inherited wealth will do well. The very senior staff in the public sector will also benefit. Most of us will have a small benefit from the changes if we can afford to pay into a pension in the first place.

Most people who are high earners also have other investments. They are likely to have paid for their house. They are also likely to have a high level of tax-free ISAs and other investments. At current annuity levels a £1,000,000 pension pot with give you £250,000 tax free as a lump sum and £37,500 a year increasing with inflation for the rest of your life. Could you live on that? Well, I am retired and that is roughly what my wife and I get in pensions, and we live very comfortably.

So, what else was there in the budget?

Thirty hours of free childcare. Really? Many nurseries that provide full time child care are already closing because of shortage of staff either because there is a smaller pool because of Brexit or because people cannot afford to live on what a child care provider is able to pay in wages. This will not lead to a lot more childcare actually being provided.

More Enterprise Zones including g one for Liverpool. We’ve been there and they did not work. All that happens with an Enterprise Zone and the associated Freeport is a shift of businesses from taxed into untaxed areas. In the case of the Freeport, it will also be associated with dodgy practices in customs, tax and employment terms.

To be fair to the Government they do seem to have got two things at least partly right and that is maintaining the so-called fuel cap at £2,500 rather than the higher level suggested by the regulators. This is only possible however because of the drop in wholesale prices for gas which has a knock-on effect into electricity.

The other thing which is right in principle but might not work in practice is the duty levels on smoking and to a lesser extent on spirits. My guess would be that a 10%+ increase in duties will simply lead to more counterfeiting and smuggling of products which can have even more health dangers than the legitimate products which they replace. The Scotch Whisky Association has pointed out that this tax hike will mean that 75% of the cost of whisky is now paid straight to the Government.

If I am wrong about the smuggling and counterfeiting anything that helps reduces use of tobacco and alcohol is good in principle in health terms.

For 99% of the people who read this the budget has no short-term benefit and our living standards will continue to decline with below inflation pay and tax threshold limits. The top 1% will have opportunities to legitimately shelter their income from vast amounts of tax.

There will be little benefit for small businesses but mobile and large businesses will have increased opportunities to swerve their tax obligations to society by dodgy investments set against capital and a move to tax free areas where the public sector not only lose income but have to supply expensive services.

Robin Hood would be appalled by what happened yesterday, but the Sheriff of Nottingham would be rubbing his hands with glee.

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The importance of family life

Erica’s Mum was a widow for 61 years. She brought up three daughters not quite single handedly but with the support of a loving family

Over the past three days I have been to two lovely events with Erica’s family in Southend-on-Sea. The only problem was that in between those events we laid my mother-in-law, Marie, to rest at Southend Cemetery.

I reflected, as I have done at other funerals, that the only person missing was the deceased and she would have loved it! All her family were there, and we had a great and comfortable time in each other’s company and nattering about our experiences with Marie and the stories we could all tell about her.

People came from far and wide. My youngest daughter Rachel travelled for 1.5 days from the Outer Hebrides and as soon as the funeral was over had to set off from Southend back home . She brought with her Mairi the youngest grandchild who was impeccably behaved the whole time.

Others flew in from Guernsey and trained in from Exeter. They were determined to overcome appalling weather conditions to show their love for their Mum, Aunt, Grandma, Great-Grandma or just as a friend.

The conclusion that I always come to at an event like this is that for most people the most important thing in their lives is a good family. This is especially true, of children who need a loving and supportive upbringing of they are to develop their own unique talents and potential skills. By that I do not mean just Mum and Dad or any other combination of adults in today’s less binary world. I mean the extended family who at different times give support or need it.

As I get older, I am conscious that perhaps Erica and I are beginning to reach the time when we might need help in our turn. We have spent a lot of our lives looking after our kids and now our grandchildren. We have, like most people our age spent time looking after our mothers both of whom lived to a sprightly age of 90 and 95. Both of them showed signs of dementia, to different degrees, towards the end of their lives but we always knew that on good days we could have great conversations with them and on others not so good.

As we chatted in the meantime with relatives, thoughts came up about wills and living wills. In a strictly legal sense both our mothers left clear legal wills about the distribution of their assets. Erica and I have already drawn up wills, but I suspect that we need to revise them after 10 years. Our intent is clear – we have three children so, apart from some specific bequests everything gets split three ways when the last of us dies.

Living wills provoked more discussion. Erica and I have resolved to have that discussion. Neither of us are religious so neither of us want to put each other in a difficult position. I have no doubt that I will be the first to die and I want Erica to proceed knowing what I would like to happen. But as she says I won’t have much of a say in it as I won’t have a vote. So, in death as in life then!!

I particularly will put in mine a ‘do not resuscitate provision should I ever be in a situation where it is likely that I would be incapable of living reasonably and with dignity if I came out of a severe or traumatic medical incident.

Personally, I don’t want a goodbye service. I would much prefer either to go straight up the chimney or I have seen that there is a new technique in the USA whereby a body can be dissolved in 28 days and then released harmlessly into the drainage system. However, if people want to have a party and reminisce that would be a different matter.

In many ways I have felt good in all the family funerals that I have been to. The women lived reasonably long lives, in reasonable, but not luxurious comfort and have many friends and family until they all passed on. I well remember my mum telling me one day, “I won’t be going to the funerals of any more of my friends”. When I asked her why that was her response came quickly, “because I buried the last of them yesterday”.

Hopefully the day is still some time off before Erica has to make those last decisions and in the meantime I really feel that whatever happens I am surrounded, sometimes via facetime or Zoom, by people who I love and people who love me.

But I am conscious that is not true for everyone. I chair an investment trust which has resolved that it will put £500,000 a year for two years into providing extra support for care leavers. These are often the people who have the most struggle at the start of their life and relatively few of them do go on to have successful adulthoods because of that early struggle.

This money will be used to provide little extras for care leavers and fill the gaps that Mum and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa would normally fill. Do they need a few nice things to fit out what would otherwise be a stark but adequate home? Do they need some extra courses or experiences to add on to the more formal education and training to which they are entitled? Do they need a decent laptop to enable them to participate fully in an educational, business or social life? These are some of the things we hope to provide for just some of the thousands of care leavers who will leave children’s social services over the next two years.

I hope that this blog does not sound smug or self-satisfied. It is simply a  reflection based on the luck that I had to be born into a stable family with a loving mum and dad and big sister who gave me huge support in my early years which enabled me to develop in the way that I wanted to. Others are not so lucky and one of my aims in my political life is to even out the ‘luck deficit!’

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Has the Government established a secretive cabal to determine Liverpool’s future?

Liverpool urgently needs a long-term vision for the City at the heart of the City Region. But decisions about that future need to be made in the Town Hall by those elected to make them after full discussion with the people, organisation and businesses of the City.

This morning I have written to the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram asking for urgent clarification of the role, remit, membership and safeguards for the Liverpool Futures Group which has been established at the request of the Government.

The letter happened after a chance set of questions that I posed at the Mayoral and Performance Select Committee revealed that a meeting of this body, actually proposed as far back as August last year, had taken place on Monday.

Cllr Kemp says, “starting off with a private meeting is not the best way to establish a process which could have a widespread impact on our City. It is important that we do establish a compelling future vision for the city as the heart of the City Region. The Government has a role to play in this as has the Regional Mayor but any discussion about the future of a city must be led by the communities, businesses and organisations which are committed to it. The decisions as a result of those involvements need to be put through the City Council which is the only body elected to make such decisions.

I have a huge concern that as the City Council starts its much needed overhaul of the so-called City Plan it should do so transparently and with full involvement of all interested Parties. Having two bodies one transparent and one none-transparent can only lead to poor decision making and conflict between the democratic and nondemocratic routes.

That is why we need safeguards to check any possibility of creating a secretive and furtive decision-making process in the city. So, I have asked 10 questions about what happened, what will happen and what checks and balances have been out in place to ensure probity in the operation of this body.

In particular, the assumption must be that this body will conduct its business in public.”

As ever I am interested to know what you think about these issues so please do not hesitate to email me (richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk) or write to me (at 16, Dovedale Road, Liverpool L18 1DW)

My letter to Mayor Rotheram is attached in full.

Steve Rotheram,

LCR Mayor,

By e-mail

8th March 2023

Dear Steve,

Re:        Liverpool Futures Group

As you know I have been broadly supportive of the Government’s Direction that a Liverpool Future Strategy Group ever since it was announced last summer by the then Secretary of State, Greg Clark.

However, I was shocked last night to hear that a meeting of this Group had actually taken place earlier this week in secret. The last thing that Liverpool needs is another furtive, secretive cabal in place and making decisions about its future. That will simply replicate the way of working that seems to have existed under former Mayor Joe Anderson.

I also see a huge possibility of a confrontation between this body and a due process which correctly seeks to involve the people, communities and businesses of Liverpool in the preparation of a new City Plan to replace the current ineffective and much regretted City Plan produced at the height of the pandemic by yet another cabal, this time of Chief Executives.

I questioned the whole of this approach last night when we were discussing in the Mayoral and Performance Select Committee the success that the Council was beginning to have with the development of a Citizens Panel to review our work. I suggested that we needed to have a similar system of involvement by informed people looking at the future of the City that they are committed to. The approach from the Tory Government, with which you are apparently colluding, seems to be the very opposite of this tried and trusted approach.

So perhaps you could answer some questions about this as you seem to have taken responsibility for it:

  1. Who is on the Group?
  2. Are they getting paid?
  3. What safeguards have been put in place to ensure that none elected members or advisers to the Group cannot take financial gain from the knowledge of what is happening for their private sector clients.
  4. Who was present at the meeting including advisors and support staff from the Department of Levelling up (DOLUP)?
  5. What was on the agenda for the meeting?
  6. What decisions were made at the meeting?
  7. Have terms of reference been agreed with DOLUP about the remit of the Group?
  8. Apart from the attendance of the Mayor and Chief Executive of Liverpool Council, both of whom will be leaving us shortly, what steps are being taken to keep all councillors within Liverpool informed of the work of this Group?
  9. Who is paying for the working of this Group?
  10. Is it likely that proposed work will be financially supported by the Government as part of the failing so-called levelling up Tory strategy.

I return to my opening comments. We need to develop a long-term strategy for the Liverpool City Region and Liverpool City Council must be the very heart of this. However, this strategy will only work if it is a bottom up and inclusive strategy which the people, communities and businesses of Liverpool can buy into, support and jointly deliver.

Your Group, by meeting privately has got off to a very poor start.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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How do political parties best work together for Liverpool?

Liverpool could and should be the best City in the North of England and one of the best in Europe. It has a great location, physical environment, strong universities and innovative business people yet it ahs been badly let down by its politicians. How do we work together to change that?

In fact, no-one had approached me and had they done so I would have discussed it with our Party’s Liverpool Executive and Council Group as it would not have been my decision but our decision.

Yesterday I was approached by the Liverpool Post to comment on a suggestion that I was blocking an anti-Labour electoral pact in the City. Some people might not have heard of the Liverpool Post and assume that it is a follow on from the Liverpool Echo’s sister paper the Daily Post. In fact, it is an entirely separate online news service.

They also did not approach me about the joint motion which the other three opposition Groups put to Council connected with the Council’s budget.

This is how the Liverpool Post reported the discussion:

As a matter of pact: “Richard fucking Kemp won’t fucking budge,” one ex-councillor told The Post last week in what wasn’t a line from John Cooper Clarke’s Evidently Chickentown. It was, rather, a reference to the leader of Liverpool City Council’s Lib Dems, who was accused of putting a block on an election pact between non-Labour parties, where it was suggested opposition parties may not stand candidates against each other in some areas to give the best chance of unseating incumbent Labour councillors. Kemp rejected those suggestions entirely, telling The Post he has not been approached regarding any pact. “You can only have a pact around an agreed set of principles,” Kemp said. “I’m prepared to sit and talk to other parties about what we can do together, but just being anti-labour isn’t enough.”

My recommendation to the Liberal Democrat Group and Executive would have been to discuss any approach we received but it would be unlikely that we would recommend a way forward based on such discussions.

Firstly, we would need to have something more in common than hating Labour. There is no point in helping get people elected who will then want to do different things than you would, based on their beliefs.

The only Party we might be able to do something with are the Greens where we can, at least understand their policy. A lot of it we agree with because we are a green party with a better environment at the top of our list of concerns. I did meet with them about 5 years ago in a coffee shop on Lodge Lane, but they failed to follow up the meeting.

The Liverpool Community Independents are Corbynite by admission. Mostly they are good people, but we have little in common with their ultimate aims apart from general ones in that we both seek to ensure that everyone is decently housed, paid, fed and educated.

The so-called Liberals have no discernible principles or policies. They are a local cult as distinct to a national party.

The new ‘Liberate Liverpool Party’ which may not be a Party at all are just rabidly anti-Labour but are really quite peculiar people if they think Cllr Dave Cummings is a suitable role model after his two criminal convictions and expulsion from the Labour Party for misogyny.

Not only are the policy similarities hard to find but so is their approach to running the Council. We are all in favour of having a clean, green, transparent and honest council which spends taxpayers’ money well but only the Lib Dems are working with the controlling Labour Party to make huge changes to the system to reintroduce the processes and procedures that were ripped apart in Joe Anderson’s time as Mayor.

All the other opposition Parties are effectively compartmentalised into different parts of the City. Liverpool Independents, Liberate Liverpool and another grouping which might fall behind Cllr George Knibb are mostly fighting each other in places we cannot currently reach.

Even the Labour Party cannot campaign across the City and are only making token showings in about 20 wards where the Liberal Democrats are clearly becoming entrenched. In areas like Penny Lane and Gateacre, Childwall and Woolton, Calderstones and Allerton they have yet to put a leaflet or at most only one leaflet and door knocking is none existent.

The Liberal Democrats cannot reach every ward either so in reality most parts of the City are already two-Party fights but with different parties being one of the two.

But, in principle, I do believe that Liberal Democrats should put up as many candidates as possible. We want to give everyone in Liverpool, and indeed the Country, to have the chance to vote for the Party they believe in. We have an imperfect electoral system which means that not every person’s vote will go to elect a candidate of their choice but who knows that someone might be inspired in some parts of the city not only to vote for us but to start to campaign for us in their own community.

For the last five elections in Liverpool, we have been the only Party to issue a manifesto which tells people what we want to do if we take control of the Council. I challenge the other Parties in Liverpool to do the same. If after the election there is a need for Parties to work together it can be done on the basis of ideas, principles and policies and not a grubby horse trading for seats and positions that takes place in other councils post-election.

Liberal Democrats have shown over the past two years our willingness to be a  constructive opposition, opposing Labour when we need to but supporting the often officer led changes to improve the council when we can.

That is what the people of Liverpool deserve. Political cooperation in a transparent and open system. Ideas coming forward to creates opportunities for our citizens and not advantage for ourselves. That is what the Liberal Democrats want as well. We will work with any Party and organisation which shares those beliefs and ambitions because that is what we are telling Liverpool people that we will do.

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What has Sunak actually achieved?

In reality the Sunak and Von Leyden discussions have led to a Windsor accord which is little more than warm words. But warm words are better than cold ones!

This morning I read Sunak’s statement about what he had achieved in Northern Ireland five times before I really understood that what I had understood from reading it the first time was correct. Simply put Sunak claims that the deal he has negotiated for Northern Ireland is great because it gives NI free access to both the UK and European markets.

Well, I have to tell him that that was exactly the position before the UK as a whole finally left the EU two years ago!

If Sunak has to change anything it is not the technicalities of the new Windsor Accord. In reality it changes little and still leaves NI subject to (their words not mine) EU laws and large elements of bureaucracy which the EU with our support has always put on third nation trading. It may have achieved a situation where there is a lot less antagonism between the EU and us and a better working relationship and that is to be welcomed. But it is not all that much in real terms for our private sector companies.

During the referendum campaign I was repeatedly attacked for a number of things that I said that have all subsequently come true. The Northern Ireland problem was the most important to me because of our proximity to the island of Ireland as a whole and the fact that we are a major Irish City ourselves because of our heritage.

I remember talking at a meeting in the Liverpool Arena from which I and the delegates at a conference could see two Stena Line ferries being loaded, One for Belfast and one for Dublin. I warned then this this peaceful co-existence in Birkenhead was threated. I was told I was exaggerating and a liar. But lo, it came to pass!

What little Sunak has achieved might help the Port of Liverpool a little. Tonnage is down on the Irish Sea routes as shippers both ways have found it cheaper and easier to bypass the UK altogether and export and import through Holland, France and even Scandinavia which is really a long way round!

What will not be helped though is the fact the other 98% of the UK no longer has the advantages in trade that Sunak gushingly says is now the preserve of Northern Ireland. Even the most rabid Brexiteer now sees that Brexit was not the great and positive event they thought it would be. Amusingly, or perhaps cynically or even more likely stupidly they think it all the fault of the Remainers who are somehow putting a spoke in the wheel of what could have been achieved.

How the Opposition Parties in Parliament and beyond could do this is beyond me. They have no power, there are no strings that they can pull to make things happen or stop them happening. Instead, what is happening is what we predicted would happen. Our trade is declining, our influence diminished and our friendships minimalised.

Our young people find it harder to move around for appropriate education; our universities are cut out of research projects which ultimately lead to jobs; our private sector exporters and importers are overwhelmed with forms and bureaucracy which leads to delays and enhanced costs and you and I have to queue for hours when we go on holiday to the EU because of enhanced passport checks.

So where does this all leave the UK Parties? Well, much as where they were before.

The DUP does not like the deal – they never have, and they never will. They will invent any possible reason for not supporting it and for staying out of the NI Assembly solely for the real reasons that they are no longer the top dogs there.

The Tories will continue to be as split on this issue as they have been for the past 40 years. The basic problem that they have is that half of them just don’t like Johnny Foreigner and the other half dram of a World in which the Brits dominated everyone else and, of course won World Wars I and II single handed.

I believe that Labour and my own Party now need to find a spine and stand up for our movement back into Europe. At least the Lib Dems have accepted the eventuality of this and have suggested a series of staging posts including re-joining the Single Market which fetters no sovereignty. Labour just seems to be in some sort of la-la land hoping it will all go away.

Put simply there will never be the money to provide the service that Dems and Labour want to provide unless we are back as a full part of the EU not only trading with the EU but also using the EU links to trade with the rest of the World.

So, in terms of reality, it has at least helped to change the narrative. This was already changing and more and mor people have begun the see the absurdity of Brexit and the range of broken promises. They see that in reduced jobs, empty supermarket shelves and lengthy airport queues.

We can all get the popcorn out and enjoy ourselves watching the Captain Mainwarings of the Tories and the bowler hatted morons of the DUP squabble and implode. The reality is though we need to get positively into a campaign for Europe which is, as it has been for the past decades the single most important issue that we face.

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Lib Dems to vote against Liverpool Labour’s sow’s ear budget

This might not be the actual drain down which Labour has thrown away £400 million of Liverpool taxpayers money but it was certainly one like it!

Liverpool’s Liberal Democrat Councillors will be voting against Labour’s budget at the Council’s budget meeting on 1st March.

Let me explain why, “The key words missing from anything that the Labour Party have said or put out in the literature they are delivering are, ‘We apologise for the mess that we have created’.

With the news that the Council is having to write off more than £230 million of uncollectable debt the quantified cost of Labour mismanagement and incompetence has risen to a known amount of £395 million. In reality, it is more than this because of hard to quantify waste caused by poor systems and controls and this year alone we will spend more than £3 million on the so-called improvement plan, consultants, advisers and the Commissioners.

It is this £395 million+ that marks the difference between other Labour led Northern cities such as Manchester and Leeds, and Liverpool. They had the same cuts as we did from central government but controlled their budget effectively. They modernised, kept an eye on every penny and had systems in place that ensured that money was spent according to priorities. In comparison Liverpool devoted their time and efforts on big schemes, most of which did not happen, and took their eye off the ball from providing value to Liverpool taxpayers.

For every £1 that the Labour Party says has been cut from us by the Tories they have effectively added their own cuts of 90p but do not expect to hear anyone from Labour actually tell you that.

To put this in context if the council had been run efficiently, we would have either had £395 million to spend on vital front-line services, or we could have not charged any council tax at all for a whole year and a 50% council tax rate for a second year. This would have meant a saving of more than £1,000 per household.

If the money had been used instead we could have provided a top class care service for young and old alike, a complete overhaul of all potholes in the City and have some money left over for extra services for libraries, parks and other community services.

Labour waste is staggering. Every year for 12 years we have had a crisis budget whilst other councils got on with the job of delivering their services as efficiently as possible. The council failed to look ahead, failed to think about more than the single year ahead and plan fundamental changes to the way our services would be run to maximise changes in technology and new methods of working.

Labour have created this mess and Labour must defend it. On the basis of the old saying, ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,’ Liberal Democrats will vote against this budget and continue to work within the Council to improve the systems to provide the value for money that Liverpool taxpayers deserve. We cannot get the lost and wasted cash back, but we can do our best to sure that the farcical situation is not repeated”.

In the consultation on the budget which we will be discussing on Wednesday the people of Liverpool made their first priority for the council reforms  to push out the cronyism and incompetence of more than a decade. This is what the Liberal Democrats will provide if the people of Liverpool put their trust in us. Clean politics, Clean and accountable use of money in a clean city.

All we need to do this is persuade you to vote for us. As always please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any queries at richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk. If they are local issues, I will get our local campaigners on the job!

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Odessa will come to Liverpool in May

Perhaps we can help the people of Odessa forget their terrible cost of the Russian invasion of Ukraine when Liverpool host the Eurovision song contest of behalf of Odessa in May (photo from Odessa City Council)

As I observed the one-minute national silence that marked the invasion of Ukraine yesterday I reflected on the fact that in May Liverpool will become for one mad and hectic week a Ukrainian City. No, we are not somehow magicking our City through the air eastwards but we are acting as hosts to the Eurovision song contest which should have been held in Odessa because the Ukraine entrant won the contest last year overwhelmingly.

Liverpool has Odessa who would otherwise be the host city as a twin city or sister city since shortly after World War II. The twinning arrangements were very important after the War. It recognised the commonality of suffering amongst our allies who had suffered much more than we did. After some years twinning was extended to include towns and cities from our former adversaries. This was to show that we, and they had moved on and we were jointly seeking a new future based on mutual respect.

Over the years those twinning sessions and what we did for them became of less importance. At the end of the 40s sending a Mayor over with a chain and delegation of local young people and business people was tokenistic but important. It reminded people of our common humanity and brought young people in particular into contact with other young people of different races, faiths, ethnicities and culture.

Over time the need for that has waned. People travel more anyway. They are exposed to other cultures etc in a number of ways. Our own link with Odessa was largely dormant although we did see Ukraine Ambassadors more because of it and there were occasional tips to one country or another.

Sadly many of the opportunities for young people to immerse themselves in other Countries have been removed by Brexit in particular the Erasmus Programme. Although this would have not affected Ukraine there are other programmes such as those run by the British Council which have also been knocked sideways.

So in the first two weeks of way Liverpool will proud to host the Ukraine team and all the others who have reached the final. Liverpool knows how to Party, and we will be partying like mad! There will be great community led involvement if what goes on and we have reached out to the roughly 250 people from Ukraine who now live here because of displacement. They will help us host the event.

There will be Ukraine flags everywhere and many opportunities not only for Liverpool to display itself well but also for Ukraine to display its qualities and achievements. Liverpool will never forget that we are the surrogate host for this event and have ensured that Odessa, Ukraine broadcasting organisations and the Ukraine Embassy have been absolutely at the heart of decision making and at the heart of the presentation of the events that will unfold.

Reflecting on what this means for our City in the longer term I think about what was achieved in 2008 when we were European Capital of Culture and 16.75 million people visited us. This gave us tremendous recognition throughout the World and began our progress to make the city truly, “The World in one City.” We now have large groups from 110+ countries living I  the City Region and largely do so in a spirit of peace and friendship.

The migrant communities bring their own strengths, skills and experiences. I spoke to one recently who used to run an IT business with her husband who is now a serving soldier. She is already bringing her skills in to play and thinking about when she might be able to return to her homeland or will, after the war, she stays here as her kids are inevitably becoming partly anglicized.  This may depend on whether her husband survives the war as we all hope he will do.

Most people in our City are proud of our Eurovision role although, to be frank, Eurovision does not normally feature in my entertainment schedule. We are much aware now than most places of the suffering going on because of the Russian Invasion. We increasingly talk of the fact that the Ukraine people are not just defending their national borders but our international borders.

If Ukraine falls the Russian state will move on to the next target country and then the next target country. Imagine a Europe where a cold war descended on the continent and there was once again an Iron Curtain dividing East from West. I do not need to remember what that was like I lived through the cold war and the rejoicing when the Soviet Union collapsed and freedom and democracy was then allowed in a range of states across the Baltic, Yugoslavia and up to the heart of the EU which so many of those nations have joined.

The British Army on the Rhine was a huge cost to the Country as were the costs to the USA of their military presence. For years those costs and needs have dwindled. Perhaps we were too optimistic. Perhaps we just totally misunderstood the mentality of Putin and his ilk. Now we must find that expenditure again. We are not just doing for Ukraine we are doing it for us and the whole of the West who would otherwise be threatened by Russia and perhaps China as well.

Solidarity in the EU and NATO is of huge importance to know as we move into an ever more uncertain future. We are in NATO but out of the EU, but I detect an increasing aware need of the need for international solidarity. I hope that Ukraine coming to Liverpool will have built on those thoughts and help us understand that we must work together to protect our own interests and those of our allies.

But enough hard talk. For now, let us concentrate on the party we are going to have where the whole of Europe can show its solidarity and friendship with the brave and determined people of Ukraine.

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