Liverpool must apologise for the fractional investment fiasco

The China Town development is just one of 32 that it appears are unlikely to be built losing investors between £250 and £500 million – perhaps even more.

Two things that have happened in the past week have caused me to believe that now is the time for Liverpool Council to apologise to the thousands of people who have lost money in failed property investments in our city.

Firstly, a suggestion has been made by Downtown in Liverpool that we should start once again to encourage fractional investments. I have no reflection on the companies that are now seeking to use this route but the city as a whole needs to cleanse itself from this sort of finance and encourage developers who will seek more traditional methods of funding.

If a bank or insurance company or similar do not have enough confidence to invest in a development with all their sophisticated methods of measuring financial yield why should anyone else invest?

Secondly, the Echo has printed a really sad story of just some of the people who have lost all or a good part of their savings in our city. I am familiar with far too many of these stories. For some I have to say they should have known better. Using the developer’s solicitor, not checking resale prices and not getting their own survey is unforgiveable to some people as one GP who ‘purchased’ two properties admitted.

However, many of the purchasers came from outside the UK and especially from Hong Kong and the Chinese Republic. They relied on a very high reputation for the UK for strong legal systems, fairness and honesty. They come from a system where if the Mayor and Council say something – it happens. Unfortunately, they have learned that standards have slipped in the UK.

Why should the Council apologise when it can be argued that in most cases, they were only the planning authority? That is true in a very legalistic sense. Only in one case, that of the two failed operations at China Town, did the Council have more than a planning stake in the development. I think there are four reasons:

  1. The Council failed to enforce high standards and proper development and building controls through the planning process. They allowed commercial land to be used for housing. They exercised no control over the post planning process. For example, in the Fox Street development they were unaware that the developer had neither paid a substantial planning gain fee to the Council nor build a 120-space underground car park. A little myopic perhaps!?
  • The council failed to bring into the city high quality developers but dealt exclusively with those who needed to use sub-prime financing methodologies. After a while the big companies refused to be associated with the city and just stayed away.
  • The Council wittingly or unwittingly assisted with the sale of these developments especially in the Far East. Senior Council Members were present at sales drives. The Council and mayoral logo was heavily used on promotional literature and signage.
  • It was obvious from about 2015 onwards that fractional investment was causing huge problems, but the Council took no actions to try and deal with the issues. Probably another 15 developments went through our systems after that all of which seem to have stalled.

So, as far as the investors are concerned, they are either seeing their money go altogether or are having to become developers themselves by acquiring unfinished assets to try and finish them off. Of the 39 stalled sites 7 are now back on with development. But the only way that the developments can proceed is to scrape off the investment value of the original investor and give them a pay back of their capital of between 6% (the unlucky ones) and 80% (the lucky ones). That of course does not allow for the loss of value of the money or the loss of the promised returns.

So, what of the other 32 sites? I suspect that the 7 where the private sector has been active in restarting will be the only ones with perhaps a couple more. Dealing with the remaining (say) 30 developments will mean that the Council and partners will need to spend a fortune on remediating the site for another development. This would, of course, have the effect of scraping off all the money put in by investors.

In the meantime, sites like Eldon Grove continue to devalue in monetary terms and also devalue and blight the surrounding communities.

Now is the time for the Council to be bold, honest and apologise:

Those who both managerially and politically caused the problems have now gone. There is no face to be saved by those in the Council at the time.

We would send a strong message to the UK and the developers that we now understand what went wrong and are putting in place actions to ensure that these problems cannot arise again.

We would help the healing process for those that have lost anywhere between £250 million and £500 million. An apology won’t bring the money back, but it will help people to stop feeling, as so many do, that they were absolutely stupid to invest in Liverpool.

As for the rest we can only hope that the tortuous police enquiries will eventually come to a head. If charges are to be made and court action taken it is important for all concerned, including those who have currently been arrested for justice to be done and done rapidly.

I suspect that the Council won’t be bold and honest enough to apologise so I will on their behalf. Neither my Party nor I created these hideous problems, but I apologise to all those who have lost their money because a Council created a ‘Dodge City’ culture. I can only regret that you have suffered alongside your families.

I can only hope that the Council, the Government, the investment industry, the solicitors and the surveyors and estate agents have learned their lesson from Liverpool and that our Country comes out stronger than before.

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David Amess – we salute you

David Amess died while carrying his community duties as a local MP. He was doing when we all should do but paid an extreme price for doing so. All people who believe in democracy must regrdet his passing and mourn his loss

Sir David Amess was a Tory which does not mean that I either did or should have hated him. There are many Tories that I do loathe and despise but he was never one of them. He’d been around for a long time and was definitely a part of the one Nation Tory Party that is clearly in retreat.

But even if he was a Tory (or member of any other Party) that I did loathe he did not deserve to die whilst carrying out his Parliamentary duties as a Constituency Member. Every day 650 MPs and about 20,000+ councillors in the UK put themselves about in their wards and constituencies. We do this to listen to people, understand situations and to help people.

Today I and my Church Ward colleagues spent 4 hours at our advice centre in the open air at the Allerton Road Market. We do that every month and make sure people know how to contact us so that we can be an active part of our community. We had a large number of queries about local issues, a lot of comments about the problems that Liverpool is facing and just one or two problems to deal with.

When we go out and talk to people (I knocked at 750 doors in the ward in August alone) we get told two things. Firstly, that we are the only people who ever come round if there is no election on and secondly that people appreciate our presence and know how to contact  us should they need to.

That is how politics should be. Democracy cannot function unless there is a regular interchange between electors and elected. We need to listen to and be held accountable by the people that for us and by the people who choose not to vote for us. How can we speak with authority about key issues if we do not listen to the real concerns of people that we represent?

Too many elected representatives already only turn out at election time because they are either lazy or because they are in a safe seat or both. They take the electorate for granted and inhabit the Chamber in Parliament or Council as if that is where the real politics take place. It isn’t. Real politics starts in the community. Our services get delivered street by street and community by community.

People know what is happening to them as a result of the policies of those they have elected. On a day-by-day basis they benefit from or suffer from those decisions. Zoom chats, Twitter and leaflets are a good way of keeping in touch. I use them all, but they are not an alternative to face-to-face interactions.

To go a step further officialdom can never solve all the problems of a community. The public sector must provide a set of basic services but then the community should come into action to supplement those services. It’s such actions by millions of volunteers that make our society liveable. The people who run the churches, the mums and dads who keep the football leagues going, the specialist charities who run the hospices and the medical support groups, the people who staff the charity shops, the reading schemes and the school governing bodies the ‘Friends’ of the Parks.

All these people and many, many more provide the services that we benefit from. They do it to benefit others, but they do it to benefit themselves as well. Volunteering is good for the volunteers as well as for the obvious beneficiaries.

That’s why we must react but not over-react to the death of Sir David Amess. Every elected representative must consider carefully the safety aspects of what we do not only for our sakes but for our staff and the other people with which we interact in public and semi-public activities.

But we must not retreat into isolation. To do so would be to strike at the heart of due democratic function and would mean that ‘they’ have won. They being the people who are unable to reason, swallow extremist filth and peddle misinformation on Twitter and Facebook.

Today our residents came up to us and thanked us for our work, thanked us for being available especially the day after the Amess tragedy. One even gave us a donation as a sort of tribute. Neither we nor any other councillor or MP should stop our proper community interaction, Nor will we.

Liverpool Lib Dems suspended our campaigning for three Liverpool Council by-elections this weekend. We did it out of respect for a fallen colleague. Albeit from another Party but who simply wanted to look, listen and learn,

David Amess we salute you. We grieve alongside your family, friends and Party. Then from Monday onwards we will back to work disagreeing thoughtfully and civilly with each other, seeking common ground when we can and opposing each other when we must. That’s democratic politics and that’s what our Country needs more of today than for many a long year.

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Tory blunders cost tens of thousands of lives

Hapless Hancock clearly wasn’t up to the job of caring for our health & care services during the worst pandemic for more than a century. He wasn’t helped by blundering Boris.

The British government waited too long to impose a lockdown in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, missing a chance to contain the disease and leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths, a parliamentary report has concluded. The 150-page report is based on testimony from 50 witnesses, including former Matt Hancock and Dominic Cummings It was unanimously approved by 22 MPs from the three largest parties.

It is this unanimity that makes this report so powerful. Cut away the bluster, the evasions, the lies and rambling from Johnson & Co and this report makes clear that tens of thousands of people died because of Tory Government incompetence. It could have been worse. The Government was full of reason and light compared to the Tory back benchers in the Covid Research Group who wanted things to carry on and let the virus work its way through the population.

The report makes clear that the deadly delay resulted from ministers’ failure to question the recommendations of scientific advisers, resulting in a dangerous level of “groupthink” that caused them to dismiss the more aggressive strategies adopted in East and Southeast Asia, according to the joint report from the House of Commons’ science and health committees.

Government thinking only changed when it became clear that the NHS was being overwhelmed and that people were starting to die in appreciable numbers particularly the elderly, those with pre-existing conditions and those from ethnic minority Groups

The desire to avoid a lockdown because of the harm it would cause to the economy, normal health services and society is absolutely understandable but was taken far too far and decisions were taken far too late.  

In the absence of other strategies such as rigorous case isolation which was at least a week late in being introduced and a meaningful test-and-trace operation which never came a full lockdown was inevitable and should have come sooner.

The Report comes amid growing frustration with the timetable for a formal public inquiry into the government’s response to COVID. PM Johnson claims that this will start next spring but there is a lot of scepticism about when it will start and what the Government will do with the findings and recommendations.

In 2017 the Government a major pandemic planning exercise which made all sorts of recommendations about the soring of equipment and supplied. These recommendations were totally ignored. This was, of course, a major reason for the 40,000 deaths of the elderly in care homes.

MPs said their inquiry was designed to uncover why Britain performed “significantly worse” than many other countries during the early days of the pandemic so that the U.K. could improve its response to the ongoing threat from COVID-19 and prepare for future threats.

Not everything was done wrong. The early focus on vaccines as the ultimate way out of the pandemic and the decision to invest in vaccine development helped reduced deaths and serious illness in the middle months of this year. Britain’s successful inoculation program, which has now seen almost 80% of people 12 and over now fully vaccinated.

The joint committee also criticised the government’s test-and-trace program, saying its slow, uncertain and often chaotic performance hampered Britain’s response to the pandemic. We spent more than £38 billion with thousands of staff being paid to do nothing for months on end. The test and trace system was only saved by the heroic efforts of public health staff a d the Councils for whom they work.

The government’s strategy during the first three months of the crisis reflected official scientific advice that widespread infection was inevitable given that testing capacity was limited; that there was no immediate prospect for a vaccine; and the belief that the public wouldn’t accept a lengthy lockdown, the report said. As a result, the government sought merely to manage the spread of the virus, instead of trying to stop it altogether.

The report described this as a “serious early error” that the U.K. shared with many countries in Europe and North America.

The report highlighted a failure of the scientific community to be able to take decisions in the round. As with many academics the main recommendation of one report is always to do more research for another report. There is a clear failure of the scientific community to be decisive and to pursue quick action, preferring instead to seek a certainty for an approach which can be worse than a wrong reaction enthusiastically followed through.

In my view senior politicians seemed unable to balance good scientific advice with good social and economic advice. As the report says, “accountability in a democracy depends on elected decision-makers not just taking advice, but examining, questioning and challenging it before making their own decisions,” the committees said. “Although it was a rapidly changing situation, given the large number of deaths predicted, it was surprising the initially fatalistic assumptions about the impossibility of suppressing the virus were not challenged until it became clear the NHS would be overwhelmed.”

But the situation broke down further when Cummings went to Barnard Castle, and the PM failed to take action against him. From this point the hard line taken by most members of the public to support self-isolation; to wear masks and to socially isolate began to break down.

As we look to the future, I believe that we need more than this report to guide us to a logical and clear way forward. This has been the worst pandemic in more than a Century. It is not over yet and like influenzas may never really be over. In particular, there will be continuing mental health issues caused by covid experiences and physical health issues caused by long-Covid and the weakening of some people’s vital organs.

This report raises a series of questions that were considered by a pandemic exercise in 2017 but the answers to which and consequent recommendations were never implemented.

What equipment and supplies should we store and replenish regularly? What is the relationship that needs to be created between science and political decision making? What is the balance between local political decision making and national political decision making? What is the relationship between all those national, regional and local command centres? Are the same organisations round the table at each level and who takes leadership at which stage?

Unless we consider these matters carefully while events are still fresh in our minds there WILL be another pandemic and tens of thousands more lives will be needlessly lost.

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We must start the campaign to re-join the EU now

Very few people will recognise this clown. He is Lord Frost who blundered his way through the Brexit negotiations and clearly didn’t understand what he had negotiated

There can be no doubt now that either Lord Frost, the Government’s Chief Brexit negotiator is stupid OR he thinks that we are stupid and won’t understand the things he is saying about things that he did! Or perhaps he just doesn’t care about making fools of the entire Country in the eyes of the rest of the World.

What is at stake now is the Northern Ireland/Brexit protocol which was negotiated just two years ago and agreed by the EU and the UK Government. It was also supported in a vote in the UK Parliament and in a further vote as part of the EU withdrawal agreement. It was clear from the start that the deal which, I can emphasise, was freely entered in to on both sides, had many, many problems which appear to have been unforeseen by Lord Frost and bumbler Johnson.

During the referendum of 2016 it was repeatedly made clear that withdrawal from the EU would create a hard border in both the Irish Sea and on the land border between NI and Eire. I well remember giving a talk to businesspeople in the Liverpool Conference Centre and pointing out the Belfast and Dublin ferries on the other side of the water and how difficulties would be created. A number of people in the audience accused me of lying or exaggeration. I wonder what they think now!

Frost and Johnson have been amazed that the EU, having concluded a Treaty through a quite tortuous process intend to keep to their word and implement it. Last year Frost made clear that he believed a Treaty was a starting point, but it isn’t – it’s an end result.

Just as when we were in the EU all major treaties and decisions have to be signed off by all Member States. 27 Countries agreed to the proposal. They did it regretfully and certainly thought more of the importance of the process than our own Government did.

So, the British government is now to present the EU with a new legal text to rewrite the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol signed by Johnson just two years ago.

The UK says the agreement is not working – and wants to remove the role for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the signed agreement. But this was a fundamental part of the Treaty and cannot be renegotiated.

Northern Ireland has been hit by shortages of goods, and community tensions have risen over the accord, with threats being made against staff at ports. Now, of course, the shortages and empty shelves are spreading to the rest of the UK with our position being now considerably weaker than it was as an EU member for everything from delivery of pork to delivery of power.

In a speech in Lisbon on Tuesday, Brexit minister Lord Frost, who negotiated the agreement, will repeat his demands for it to be changed. This blustering nonsense has rightly been rebuffed by Brussels.

“Without new arrangements in this area, the protocol will never have the support it needs to survive, says Frost”. However, it never had widespread support with the exception of Tories and the DUP who are suffering a precipitous drop in support in Northern Ireland.

This week, Maros Sefcovic, the EU’s Brexit lead, promised proposals to respond to the UK – but he said removing the ECJ’s role would cut Northern Ireland off from the single market was impossible. That was the compromise that enabled an agreement to be made. Ireland is a small Ireland with two States and a difficult to control border. That is why the ECJ was so important to the deal as an arbiter of the Treaty and all that flowed from it.

Lord Frost is expected to tell his audience in Lisbon that the relationship with the EU is “under strain”. Well of course it’s under strain because the UK Government ignored all the warning about the Border and the way that it could subvert the Good Friday Agreement which has brought peace to the island of Ireland for 3 decades.

The UK now needs to show ambition and willingness to tackle the fundamental issues at the heart of the protocol head on. It has consistently failed to do so. It hoped that a few wise cracks from Joker Johnson would brush aside the basic faults from the UK viewpoint that are part of the protocol.

It is much easier for the UK to move than the EU. We have just one land border to consider they have, I think, 19. The rules about hard borders with 3rd Countries were ones that we pressed for and supported when EU members. Now we don’t think them appropriate as we are a 3rd country ourselves. There is no way that the EU can change the rules for just one Country no matter how self-important we are.

The UK has threatened to trigger Article 16 of the protocol, the nuclear option of total disengagement, if its demands are not met – effectively suspending the deal. This is an approach of bluffing charlatans. The UK needs to recognise that it is a weak country in a weak position. We were the ones that blundered, and we are the ones that caused this mess. We cannot expect the 27 members of the EU to be that concerned about the affairs of one small and declining Country when they have the needs and problems of 27 to deal with.

In March next year there will be the start of a campaign to re-join the EU. I will be part of it, and I encourage others to join in as well. The only way to negotiate our way out of this mess and the decline which is flowing from it is to negotiate our way back into the EU. We’re going to do that sometime. It might as well be now.

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Why Keir Starmer should apologise for writing in the Sun

Keir Starmer was wrong to write in the Sun. I have joined the many voices from Merseyside who have told him so.

I was appalled to see that Keir Starmer, the Labour Leader had written to the Sun Newspaper. I played hell when one of our former Leaders did likewise but decided that this was a Labour matter and should be left to them.

However, since then a number of people have asked me to make my Part’s viewpoint crystal clear on this subject. It is clear that Starmer was absolutely wrong to write in the Sun. This isn’t a dead and historic issue to many in Liverpool. It’s a day-to-day reality of loved ones lost and lives shattered or changed.

Below you can see the letter that I have written to Keir Starmer. I don’t think that I need to add to it:

8th October 2021

Rt Hon Sir Keir Starmer QC, MP,

House of Commons,

London SW1A 0AA

Dear Sir Keir,

Labour and the Sun Newspaper

You might think that this is none of my business, but I am joining in the chorus of discontent from members of your own Party at all levels over your decision to write in the Sun.

You might think that Hillsborough is history but for many people in Liverpool it is a reality which they carry as a burden every day of their lives. 96 people were amongst the thousands of law abiding Scousers who went to Sheffield that day. They did what they were asked, they behaved properly and went where they were told. Those 96 never came back. The number of people who died is much greater. One passed away prematurely this year because of injuries suffered all those years ago. Others have committed suicide or in other ways have gone to an early grave.

What made the suffering worse was that for almost two decades the families of the dead and the wider community of Liverpool and our City Region suffered the national acclamation that the dead brought about their own injuries. They were drunk, unruly, showed a lack of concern and compassion as the injuries mounted up. In other words, “it was all their own fault”.

It was a number of national newspapers who led to this false representation of the Liverpool fans but above all it was the graphical pictures and words of the Sun Newspaper that created the false view of the fans and people of the City of Liverpool

It was only the determination of the families, the Council and a campaign headed by the former Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, which finally brought the inquests which lead to the healing process moving forward.

So, you see Sir Keir that what might appear to be an ancient matter to you is still a burning injustice for many of us here. The Sun has never properly apologised for the false picture it painted. That picture has caused anguish and pain to many people who were the friends and relatives of those that died. By appearing in the Sun as a contributor you enhance the reputation of a ‘newspaper’ that truly belongs in the gutter.

My conscience has led me never to talk to the Sun in all the years that I have been a Councillor in Liverpool. I hope that this letter and all the representations made from your own Party members will cause you to think twice before you ever again even think of trying to peddle your wares through this obnoxious rag.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Kemp

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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You Politicians – You’re all at it!!

The Guardian and other investigative newspapers globally, has reported on a wide range of legal and illegal tax evasions. One related to the Balirs who legally saved tax by buying a property from an offshore company. (Image from the Guardian)

For the second time the Guardian and investigative newspapers across the World have brought into the public view a huge treasure trove of documents, the Pandora Papers, which relate to the way that the wealthy conceal their wealth from us and more importantly the taxman.

Many of the people named in the reports are politicians from around the World but many of them are in Britain. They’ve either found ways of dodging reasonable taxes themselves or have encouraged others to do so.

Top of the list, of course is the Tory Party. Its cronyism has really come to the fore during the pandemic as they have poured billions into crony donors with huge contracts ranging from £500,000 for ‘marketing’, to £15 million for an App that didn’t work to £33 billion for a ‘track and trace’ process which didn’t work and needed to be rescued by Public Health staff.

A Conservative party donor who helped fund Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign was involved in a major corruption scandal, according to an investigation into a trove of leaked financial documents.

Mohamed Amersi reportedly advised Swedish telecoms giant Telia on a £162m deal with the daughter of Uzbekistan’s former ruler Islam Karimov – a payment later described by the US authorities as a “bribe”. The Swedish company was later fined £700m by the US authorities over the deal and accepted that the money given to Gulnara Karimova was a “corrupt payment”.

Chancellor Sunak, has pledged that the UK tax authorities will review the biggest leak of offshore data in history. He told Sky News, “HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) will look through those documents to see if there is anything we can learn.”

Sunak, who is thought to be the richest man in the UK cabinet, insisted he has not benefited from any offshore tax arrangements. We’ll see what he does and whether he really cares. These abuses have been known about for years. They are only being acted upon now because of brilliant investigative journalism which has put the issues back on the agenda.

But it’s not only Tories benefitting from lax tax laws. Tony and Cherie Blair saved hundreds of thousands of pounds in property taxes when acquiring a London office building from an offshore company partially owned by a prominent Bahraini minister.

The former British prime minister and his wife became the owners of a £6.5m office building in 2017 by acquiring a British Virgin Islands (BVI) company controlled by the family of HE Zayed bin Rashid Alzayani, the constitutional monarchy’s current minister for industry, commerce and tourism.

The problem with this drip, drip, drip of bad news is that it gives people the opportunity to say, “you politicians are all the same. You’re all in for what you can get”. I want to tell you that is not the case even in Parliament. I mean, be honest, who would choose to become a Lib Dem MP because of the riches it might bring them!? Many MPs do go out of their way to serve their community. For every self-seeking bastard who sees Parliament as a place for advancement there is another who is there to serve.

You might question the competence and intelligence of some. You mightn’t like their policies but that is for the people of their constituency to decide. But their motives are pure and unquestionable

Outside national politics our councils are led by people on principal councils and town and parish councils who give unstintingly of their time because they love their community and believe that they can help that community by acting as a Councillor. As I look around Liverpool Council, I see a very great mix of competence and commitment.

For some the £10.5 k all backbench councillors get is a useful addition to their pension or wage. Yes, some are rarely seen in their wards outside election time especially in wards considered to be ‘safe’. For every one of those there are two across the Parties who are out night after night and weekend after weekend serving the people of their area; dealing with casework, looking at policies and programmes and trying to find ways that the Council can progress both individual and societal needs.

As part of the review of the number of councillors that the City needs we were all asked to complete a survey of the time we spend on council, ward and party business. The hours that many councillors work are truly heroic. There are very few councillors who earn anything like the minimum wage for what they do. We do it without complaint because we want to serve. We need some income because we too have bills to pay but often, we give up greater income because of our love of our area, our community and our City.

So, if you are one of those people who think we are all it let me advise you that it is incredibly easy to take us on. You need 10 signatures on a nomination paper. You need a few pounds for some leaflets, which in the Lib Dems case is not provided by a rich Party but comes from our own pockets; and you need to go out and talk to people and persuade them that you will be better than the people who currently sit in the Council Chamber.

That’s what my colleagues and I will be doing in the run up to the 2023 elections. We think our ideas and our people are better than Labours (no other ‘party’ matters in Liverpool) so we’ll go out and try and win more sits. That is what democracy is about listening to; talking to; and trying to persuade people to vote for.

If you are an armchair groucher stop whingeing and start doing something if you really think that those of us who are elected already are that bad.

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How much more money will they waste on Lime Street?

The Lime Street scheme which is already months behind schedule will have no work done on it for months will now have more delays after the third roads contractor used by the Council goes broke mid-scheme.

It was sad news that the Company undertaking the huge changes at Lime Street went into administration yesterday with all the loss of jobs and grief that this will entail. However, some good my come of it if we use the forced suspension of work to rethink the many and manifest problems of the scheme.

I’ve written today to the Council’s Head of Regeneration, Mark Bousfield and the Government’s Transport Commissioner, Neil Gibson, to remind them that in April, when the Council last looked at this, the Cabinet decided that it was impossible to stop the scheme.  They came to this conclusion because of the fact that every week of delay would cost the Council £60,000 in contractor costs. The Council then decided to proceed with the scheme with the full knowledge that they would then need to dig up the completed work to make changes to the obvious design faults.

“Now that doesn’t apply and there could be delay of many months as the Council seeks a new contractor who will have to check what the situation is, price the work and them commission the work. We should take advantage of this by getting the design right now to avoid further disruption down the line.

Liberal Democrats opposed both this and its sister scheme at the Strand because there was no real traffic case put before for doing it. It was clear that there would be little difference in the traffic that would use the two schemes although there would be longer queues especially in Lime Street as the ‘throat was narrowed between Lime St and St Georges Hall.

It was also blindingly obvious that instead of increasing bus use it would decrease it as it cut off the interconnections of buses between North and South Liverpool. Also clear was the fact that bus lanes had been put into both schemes which look great but don’t enter the comprehensive cycle lane system that is needed if we are to encourage people to move from cars to cycling and other forms of public transport.

On both schemes the Council has created vast areas of pavement which may look good but actually serve no useful purpose. Too small to become a piazza or usable space and to large to be a real pavement. They will become spaces that are crossed and not used. Quite clearly the fabric of Grade I listed St Georges Hall has been damaged because the Council have not ensured that the Council has safeguarded the fabric of the building.

The Council cannot say they were not told of the faults. When consultation on these schemes took place, the proposals were panned by the public, coach companies, bus companies, hauliers and taxi companies. Basic questions were ignored for issues like where to people get off coaches outside the Empire to go to a show or near the Pier Head to drop off day trippers.

You might say that this was just another of the off the wall grandiose schemes of the previous Mayor, Joe Anderson. But one of the first things Joanne Anderson did when she became Mayor was to do a video for Liverpool Express, the Council’s in-house Pravda, praising the schemes.

The design faults however, are not the only problem. It is clear that there is still much wrong with the transport engineering section of the Council. This is the third contractor in a year to go broke causing chaos as the Council scrambles to sort out half completed schemes. We must look closely about our procurement systems and how we undertake due diligence in a highly competitive sector. No other Council is facing problems of this scale so it must be something that Liverpool Council is doing wrong in its selection process.

Liverpool taxpayers will end up picking up the tab for this incompetence. The Strand/Lime Street developments are already £13.5 million over budget and the borrowing to put this right will cost £4.5 million. Any extra money will also have to be borrowed by the Council with a concomitant interest charge. Who knows what the final cost will be for a scheme that will do nothing to encourage the walking, bus and cycle use that we all want to see.

Now there will be even more expense on a scheme which will wreck bus use and cause more delays than the ones that it was supposed to solve.

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Bishop Tom Williams a great son of Liverpool

Bishop Tom (Williams). A man of faith, a true son of Liverpool and an example to us all about how we should live our lives and work for others.

We don’t hand out Freedoms of Liverpool like a bag of sweeties. Instead, what we do is to give them to Men and Women whose service has been so special and great to our city that we can conceive of no greater honour.

That was what we did last Thursday when we awarded the honour to Bishop Tom Williams who is known by everyone just as Bishop Tom. The great and the good of Liverpool poured into the Town Hall (numbers only subject to Coronavirus requirements) to witness the award of this honour.

Apart from a brief spell when he was away at the seminaries, he has lived all his life within 4 miles of the place that he was born in the North End of Liverpool just by the docks. His grandfather was in the Orange Lodge and his Grandmother was a Catholic – perhaps this is why he has always favoured an ecumenical approach to religion!

He was inspired to become a Priest by a teacher for all the wrong reasons. One day a teacher told the class that Tom was in, “Why do we bother when you’re only going to be dockers or binmen”. That made Tom very angry. He didn’t look down on working class people. After all he had been born into a working-class Irish family, or as the famous song puts it,

“I was born in Liverpool down by the docks,

Me religion was Catholic,

Occupation, hard knocks!”

But Tom aspired for more than that for the people he lived amongst and his family. Within days he had talked his way into a junior seminary, although at 13 he was a little old for it, because he had realised that his calling was to become a Priest to deal with the attitudes of that teacher and the needs of the people amongst whom he had been brought up.

Anyway, as his mother told him, “you’ve got a good face to be a priest!”

When at the age of 25 he was appointed to be the Priest in a Parish he said, “I kept asking myself, ‘am I good enough to be a Priest’”. This is a question he continues to ask himself on a regular basis. It was as a ‘Priest’ and not a Bishop that he responded to a request to visit a seriously ill person during the early stages of the pandemic. Tom checked the ground ahead of him and was assured, “Oh no Father it’s not Covid!”.

Two weeks later he himself had Covid from which he made a complete recovery. He said this gave him a renewed view of the problems of the sick.

What many people don’t know is his long commitment to health and social care. He was the Chaplain to the Royal Liverpool Hospital firstly at the old Royal and then at the new Royal shortly to be the demolished Royal!

His work, he told us, was to listen without judgement. We heard testimonies last Thursday from people who have been helped by this marvellous approach and who mediated between and inside families to ease tensions and provide support and relief.

He made no less than 40 trips at Easter to Lourdes taking with him disabled children to revive their spirits and raise hopes of a cure. This was a huge commitment of time and energy which, as we could tell from the pictures, he really loved doing.

I am unable to comment on his religious beliefs. Having none myself I can only recognise a true person of faith from any religion and of none. Tom Williams has huge faith, huge integrity and uses that faith, not inwardly to enrich himself, but externally to enrich the people around him and the community at large particularly in the North End of Liverpool.

Such people are rare and to encounter it in someone who is so self-effacing is even rarer.

Tom, you continually ask yourself, “Am I good enough?” The people of Liverpool relied as one on Thursday and said, “yes you are. You are more than good you are an example to us all from different faiths and none as to how to live our lives in the service of others”

I don’t know what the process is of making a Saint but the views of many of us Tom already is one.

May Tom’s God continue to bless and support him in the work that he does for all of us.

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Starmer gives Liverpool Labour the ‘Judas Kiss’

Starmer talks big but is he brave enough to come to Liverpool to conduct the purge on Andersonites and Corbynites that is surely being put in hand.

There was a name that didn’t pass Starmer’s lips yesterday but his contempt and determination to deal with that name was apparent throughout. Starmer holds Corbyn in absolute contempt. If a so-called social democrat could undertake a Stalinist revisionist purge the name of Corbyn would be banned forever. His picture would be expunged from the record as happened with Tutankhamun’s father for preaching the heresy of the Aten.

However, Starmer cannot do that, so it is absolutely clear that Starmer who is now in control of the Party apparatus will wreak his revenge on the remaining Corbynistas. They are already losing influence across the Party. As happened 40 years ago with Militant, Momentum has come and is going. These extremist Groups have a shelf life of about 5 years when they cause chaos inside the Labour and then go on to cause havoc within the Councils should they have been elected.

Nowhere will Starmer’s axe fall more heavily and repeatedly than in Liverpool where the problems caused by Joe Anderson have given huge opportunities to the national and regional Parties to create purges of those that they find objectionable. In Liverpool, they have already taken control of the selection of all candidates up to 2025. This will mean that when there are all up elections in 2023, they will control the selection of all 85 vacancies that will ensue.

They will also control the nominations for the General Election which must take place by May 2024 but is likely to be earlier.

Whatever happens there will be huge upsets within the Party and a really big turnover of Councillors and MPs. Some will be glad to get out and some will go out fighting. Some big names will go and some big hitters from former years. Already there are fall outs coming. There was an unedifying squabble between Labour members in the Car Park of Everton Sports Ground after the debacle of the Arms Fair none-debate at the last Council meeting and the dreadful fact that one Councillor publicly said they agreed with me on something!

In terms of Councillors there are two types of people who will be getting the chop:

Clear Corbyn supporters. It is difficult to know how many there are because there have been so many extremists in the Party for so long. But likely evictees from the ‘Starmer House’ would include young people who have joined the Council over the past few years two of whom are already ‘administratively suspended’ because of anti-Semitic sentiments.

The other group must include mates of Anderson. If someone served in Anderson’s Cabinet, they either knew what was going on or should have known. Surely there can be no way back especially for the people who weren’t even allowed to stand in their internal Mayoral election. On top of these are other loyal Anderson acolytes, mostly from the North of the City, who formed a praetorian Guard around their Leader and supported him unequivocally whatever daft statement he came up with.

Their influence is still pervasive. Just look at what happened at the Springfield Park debacle on Tuesday. The spirit of ‘Redrow Joe’ and his penchant for building on green space has invaded the very spirit of Labour in Liverpool.

Why should I care about all this? Well in purely political terms I don’t! Having our opponents fighting like rats in a sack is good for us politically. We came out of the best elections with the best results that we have had for more than a decade into a new electoral system which we are opposing on principle but in practice will work well for us.

But our City will suffer in the short to medium term. It took us 20 years to pay off debts and repair the damage caused to the city’s reputation by Hatton & Co. We now have a ‘Babes in the Wood’ Cabinet exercising little direction within the Council and with budgets that are far more challenging than those of the 80s

Liverpool is getting little political leadership and direction. The recent debate on the so-called, ‘City Plan’ was a case in point. 7 two-minute speeches from the Cabinet which said nothing much; major items like social housing entirely missing; a total lack of passion and commitment and perhaps even less understanding of the gravity of the situation in which Liverpool finds itself.

So, the Lib Dems are now trying to do two things. My colleague Kris Brown is becoming highly respected for the way he is chairing the Independent Audit Committee and is getting plaudits all around for the big picture reviews that he is undertaking. I meet senior staff regularly and now the Commissioners as well. I try to be supportive wherever I can and oppositional when I need to be. Andrew Makinson is raising big issues around spending on the services of the Council and the waste inherent in some of the big schemes like the Strand and Lime Street (£13 million over budget!)

Meanwhile our Councillors both in Council Committees and our own Wards highlight the small things that make a big difference. Cllr Richard Clein last night made incisive comments about the need for more traffic attendants outside the City Centre as so many of our pavements are now an obstacle race for the disabled and people with buggies, prams and Zimmers because of inconsiderate parking.

So let me reassure the people of Liverpool. Liverpool Labour might be fighting each other but Liverpool Lib Dems will continue to fight for the people of Liverpool.

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Joe Anderson fails again but gets Liverpool more bad publicity

Joe Anderson still casts a dark shadow over the City of Liverpool as his latest court case failure clearly shows.

More bad publicity hit some of the national media over the past few days when news broke that Joe Anderson had failed in his attempt to seek a judicial review into his arrest on suspicion of bribery and witness intimidation. He asked the courts to rule that his arrest and subsequent searching of his property was unlawful

The application was rejected, and he has now lost an appeal against that initial decision.

If you recall, Anderson was arrested along with four other men when officers swooped on addresses across the city late last year. To date no charges have been laid so everyone connected with this case is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty by due process through the legal system.

The arrests formed part of Operation Aloft, an ongoing investigation into building and development contracts in Liverpool. Anderson was suspended by the Labour Party following his arrest which meant that he couldn’t be the Labour Candidate for the Mayoral election which was won instead by Joanne Anderson!

The judicial review bid was first rejected by Mr Justice Julian Knowles. A second judge, Mr Justice Ian Dove, then upheld the initial decision in July after it was appealed by Mr Anderson.

A spokesperson for Merseyside Police confirmed Mr Anderson had issued proceedings against the chief constable of the force, focusing on his arrest and the property searches.

The force said: “As part of this he argued that as a matter of law, on the facts in the matter, his actions could not amount to witness intimidation.

As is usual in judicial review proceedings the matter was considered on paper and Mr Justice Julian Knowles refused Mr Joseph Anderson permission to bring judicial review proceedings on all grounds.

 Anderson sought an oral renewal hearing, as is his right in such proceedings.

The matter was heard before Mr Justice Dove in July 2021 in the Administrative Court sitting in Manchester.

Mr Justice Dove again refused Mr Anderson permission to bring judicial review proceedings, as such the arrest and searches of Mr Joseph Anderson’s premises were lawful. Mr Joseph Anderson was ordered to pay costs to the chief constable.”

The last sentence is good news for Liverpool taxpayers. The fact that Anderson lost the case meant that he had to pay all the costs not only of his legal actions but also those of the Police. However, in another related case the Council might still be liable for Anderson’s costs. This is because earlier this year, Joe also brought action against Liverpool Council for refusing to provide indemnity to pay for the legal costs of defending himself against the allegations that formed part of the police investigation.

In that case, a High Court judge said the council had wrongly applied its own policy when making the decision not to grant the indemnity. This is clearly being contested by the Council. It would mean that anyone could claim to be on Council business and expect the Council to pay legal costs. “I was only watching pornography because I was doing research in my role as a councillor, Your Honour!!” No, it doesn’t convince me either!

The Council maintain, rightly in my opinion that it would not have been lawful to pay Anderson’s legal fees, and that the allegations against him did not relate to work he carried out in his position as Mayor of Liverpool. Anderson was supported in Court by four very expensive Barristers. We can only speculate about who is paying them if Joe fails to get the Council to meet costs.

But even the settling of this case will not be the end of the matter. Joe has launched a third judicial review against the Government’s decision to initiate a Best Value Inspection of Liverpool alongside its subsequent report.

I cannot report back on this in detail on this as I can find no mention of it anywhere. This surely would be the height of stupidity. The idea that A Government should not intervene with a review of a Council which in three years saw 15 people arrested on 16 occasions is laughable. A judicial review might work if the Government had done nothing but where they intervened in a council with such dubious behaviour is surely above reproach.

So, Joe Anderson is gone, but is definitely not forgotten. His political ghost will continue to titillate the press for months to come as legal, justice and court proceedings come and go. As Shakespeare wisely observed, “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones”.

So, Joe Anderson and the memories of him will blight our city for the decade to come and perhaps longer. He didn’t do everything wrong or for the wrong reasons. In fact, I recently praised his approach to the pandemic which I think saved lives in our City. But be under no illusion that the Anderson legacy will mean reputational and financial problems for our City for years to come.

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