Liverpool Labour never fail to underwhelm!!

Yesterday I led the Lib Dem charge at the Council Meeting in Liverpool. We now know that it’s business as usual for Liverpool Labour Party. They rejected all three requests for sensible change in the way the Council does business that we asked for.

Yesterday’s Council meeting was one in which Liverpool’s rag, tag and bobtail group of Labour Councillors never failed to underwhelm.

On three occasions they totally failed to rise to the challenges faced by a Council which is absolutely the best in the Country in the league table for arrests! In 4 years, 16 arrests have been made in connections with Council contracts and developments in the City. This is absolutely unprecedented. I can think of no time in the 54 years that I have been connected with local politics there has ever before been the arrest of a political head of the Council as there has been of the Labour Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson.

This has led to systemic failure across the services of the Council. Shady and lost investments by the Council. £billions lost by shady developments. A poor education service which is the worst of any core city in the Council. Invest to save projects that became invest to lose. I could go on.

All this, of course, means that we have a Government Inspection Team in the City. We are the only Council in the Country with this unenviable status. The last two councils were Northamptonshire and Nottingham, where the Councils were teetering on the brink of insolvency. That is not the situation in Liverpool. We’re in the dock for the way we have conducted the regeneration, or should we say degeneration, in the City.

Yesterday Liberal Democrats moved three major items of debate written in such a way that they were none-partisan, attacked no-one but would have moved the Council and therefore Liverpool forward. Labour voted against all of them.

Firstly, we moved an amendment that would have brought some basic and common-sense practices into the council. It should be absolutely clear to everyone that politicians and officers should not have private 1:1 meetings with developers and contractors. We wanted to see proper scrutiny of all decisions taken. We wanted to see Cllrs who are clearly unskilled received training support so that they can do their job properly. Common sense to your and me.

Rejected by Labour whose motion tried to convince us that everything was already being done to correct this situation. So why are the Inspectors in Wendy Simon?

Secondly, we moved a motion asking for the urgent development of a task force to deal what has clearly become a major problem – the future of the City Centre. It is absolutely clear that all major City and Town Centres will be subject to major change. More office workers will work from home for all or part of the week.

That means we have to consider what to do with those offices. Less workers in the City Centre means less purchasing power and less shoppers. Retail will also be affected by changes in the way we shop. People have more interest in on-line shopping for ever. So, what are we going to do with all those retail outlets?

We believe that urgent action is needed so we asked for it. We also suggested that these moves might benefit District Centres like Woolton Village, Allerton Road and centres in Childwall, Allerton, Hunts Cross and Aigburth.

Labour’s response was to say that this organisation is doing this and that organisation is doing that. A total mumble jumble of dithering with no accountability back to the people of Liverpool. At the same time of course, they are trying to extort rents and service charges from the traders in St John’s Market based on a 2016 footfall.

Lastly, we returned once again to the question of the Mayoralty. My email inbox and Twitter feeds are full of people demanding change. We agree but Labour didn’t. Lib Dems argued that many of the problems that the Council is facing are caused by the way we run ourselves. All power is concentrated in one pair of hands and there is little scrutiny of decisions that are made by a Mayor dominated Cabinet and Set of Scrutiny Chairs.

We wanted consultation now to ensure that there would be no wasteful election for a City Mayor in May. Labour kicked this into the long grass with an amendment that there will be consultation but in September. This means that there will an Elected Mayor in place until May 2024. That is not what the people of Liverpool want but perhaps there too many Labour snouts in the trough to expect them to want to create a better system.

So, what we need is more Lib Dem Councillors! If Labour don’t want a strong and well led council that conducts its business in an open and transparent way, the Lib Dems do. Every vote that we get, every extra Councillor that we get means that your voice will be heard more in the council chamber and that a corrupt Labour Party can be held more accountable.

A lot of people challenge me to ask me why the Lib Dems don’t do more to take on Labour and all the corrupt practices. The fact is that there is only so much that 10 Lib Dem Cllrs can do. If everyone who moaned about Liverpool Labour on Twitter or Facebook actually spent an hour a week working with the Lib Dems, we could quickly sweep Labour from power.

That’s my challenge to you. Stop moaning and do something. Join us or become a supporter on our website http://www.liverlibdems.org.uk.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Liverpool Labour sell the City short with pathetic response to the current political situation

Tonight’s Council Meetings will not be taking place in the Town but, apart from a small number of us who will be in a safe space in the Cunard, will be conducted virtually.. Cllr Makinson and I will be moving an amendment which should be supported by all Parties to recognise the problems of the Council and do something about them

Liberal Democrats will move an amendment to a motion by the acting Mayor at tonight’s Council Meeting describing it as a weedy and insignificant response from a Council in crisis.

The amendment suggests that the Council must recognise the difficult situation in which it finds itself with 15 arrests being made in 4 years of 14 people who are or have been staff of the Council associated with procurement or development activities of the Council or are politicians within the Council.

It says that the Council should recognise that this unenviable record means that Liverpool’s reputation has been the subject of huge adverse commentary and criticism in media globally, nationally and locally and that this criticism is in danger of damaging public and private investment in the City.

It goes on to suggest a series of actions which Lib Dems believe would improve Liverpool’s standing and the way that it does business. These include:

  • A review of all scrutiny processes
  • A review of all standing order and policy documents relating to development and contracting by an outside Party.
  • A ban on either politicians or officers holding one to one meetings with potential contractors or developers
  • Providing the public diary of all cabinet Members and keeping a contemporaneous record of all meetings held by a council officer
  • Mentoring support for all leading councillors and the political groups on the Council.

Cllr Kemp, who is the longest serving City Councillors says, “we have a very weak council and the way that Liverpool has failed to take up loads of free training and support from the Local Government Association and other bodies is one of the reasons for the weakness. As a Council we must learn from the best councils and up our game. To do that we need to make sure that Council procedures are strong and that they have been externally recognised as being strong. We can then move forward with Councillor training to build on a firm base of transparency and openness”.

Attached below is the amendment which will be moved as an addendum at the end of Cllr Simon’s motion.

Cllr Kemp can be contacted on 07885 626913

11. Fairness, Equality, Integrity and Transparency in Liverpool City Council by Councillor Wendy Simon

Amendment by Cllr Richard Kemp and Cllr Andrew Makinson

However, Council recognises the difficult situation in which it finds itself with 15 arrests being made in 4 years of 14 people who are or have been staff of the Council associated with procurement or development activities of the Council or are politicians within the Council.

It recognises that this unenviable record means that Liverpool’s reputation has been the subject of huge adverse commentary and criticism in media globally, nationally and locally and that this criticism is in danger of damaging public and private investment in the City.

It believes that words are not enough and that the Council agrees the following actions:

  1. To immediately secure external support to review all its procurement and contractual standing orders and its internal procedures related to the sale of land and the signing of contracts with the private sector.
  2. To review its Member and Officer codes of Conduct to make absolutely clear whatever the role being followed by the councillor or officer the restrictions on them in engaging with the private sector.
  3. That details of the diaries of The Mayor and Cabinet Members whilst on their official duties should be made available on the Council’s website.
  4. The immediate banning of any meetings or discussions by politicians with developers or potential investors in the City or suppliers of services to the Council or potential companies into which the Council might make an investment unless those meetings are properly established by the Council and supported by officers being present.
  5. That contemporaneous notes be made and recorded by officers of any such meeting held by the Mayor and members of the Cabinet and that these should be available for any enquiry made about the contacts and conversations that ensued.
  6. The development of protocols and training for Councillors to enable them to properly relate to planning applications and those that submit them within their wards.
  7. That  mentoring support be requested from the LGA for all leading members of the controlling group and opposition groups and their respective Parties to improve the levels of knowledge of Liverpool members which are often confined to knowledge only of how Liverpool does business, and opportunity be given to observe other councils in action and work with them on the development of good practice in the City.
  8. That the Centre for Scrutiny or a Peer Challenge Team of the LGA be asked to review the make up and terms of responsibility of the Council’s Select Committees and help the Council develop select committees as a place of responsible challenge and the developers of good policies and programmes for the Council. In particular to examine the role of the Audit & Governance Committee and Companies Committee in examining financial and audit work of the Council
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lib Dems call for May elections to be deferred

This is what an election count normally looks like. We would have to make major changes to the ways in which the Parties and the Council operate to make a May election safe..

Liverpool’s Liberal Democrats have written to the Home Secretary asking for a two-month deferment of the elections due on 6 May to the first Thursday in July instead.

In my letter I said “to have the elections on the current date would make them unsafe and liable to fail to reflect the views of the population. Delaying them for 2 months, subject to any other problem that might arise in the medium term, will make them safe and with a good level of participation.

The problem will start in March when each Party will have to make more than 300 house calls to get necessary forms filled in. In some cases, people will be asked to fill in 4 sets of forms. This will inevitably mean close contact inside people’s homes”.

Liverpool Lib Dems have currently voluntarily stopped all external campaigning although there are some external things that we could clearly do under the Government’s regulations. Things would be allowed because we are a voluntary body and can take exercise in our locality which are two specific exemptions under the Government’s regulations. We choose not to do this at the current time because although some things would be safe, we would not be sending out a clear message about staying at home to the communities that we serve.

However, there is no way that we could contemplate the door to door conversations that we believe are a vital part of democracy. We wouldn’t want to do it and we certainly would not be well received. We believe that these elections are the most important local elections in Liverpool for many years. With 15 arrests in 4 years of people in or around the Council and Government Inspectors in and about to make mandatory recommendations we believe that politicians should be on the doorstep and in public meetings able to answer the many questions that we know people have. Such actions will eb totally impossible ina May election.

There will also be huge problems for the Council. The polling stations will clog up. Filling in four ballots with inevitable queries about which ballot to put where will slow down the process. Not all our current polling stations can be made Covid-secure and we are not clear how social distancing and regular cleansing would work between voters and between voters and staff. We know that the Council is undertaking a Covid based risk assessment of polling stations but some just cannot be made safe.

Many will choose to stay away and no matter what we do many voters and polling and counting staff would be put at risk. The turnout will be down at an election at which we need a huge turnout to accurately pronounce judgement on the politicians of our City.

What we are suggesting is not a political point but a health point. Politically we don’t want a delay because all the signs are that we will get an increased vote and more councillors elected. That will mean that we will be able to hold the Labour Party to account in a more comprehensive fashion. In the meantime, the Council can begin the process of carrying out the instructions that will come from the Government’s skilled inspectors.

We want an early election but it should only take place when it can also be a safe election. By July, unless things go badly wrong with vaccination controls, we should be able to have a proper election and the people of our City will be able to give a full response to the mess that their Council is in.

Letter to Priti Patel in full:

Rt Hon Priti Patel,

Home Secretary,

London

By email

18th January 2021

Dear Ms Patel,

Here in Liverpool the Liberal Democrats are very keen to see that the local and sub-regional elections deferred last May are held as soon as possible. Every voter in Liverpool will be able to vote 4 times for a councillor, a City Mayor, a Liverpool City Region Mayor and a Merseyside Elected Police Commissioner. We want to expand our team of Lib Dem Cllrs and are confident that we would have done so last year and will be able to do so this year.

However, we are also concerned that elections should be safe and accurately reflect the wishes of the electorate. We doubt that this can happen if the elections take place on May 6 as planned. Although the Country will be well on with the vaccination process by then the process starts much sooner.

Every Party in Liverpool will have to knock on 300+ doors to get our nomination and consent forms filled in. These are usually done inside the house because they are complicated and, in some cases, will be asking people to sign four forms. Given the number of candidates in Liverpool across all Parties and independents this means up to 1,500 house visits well before the vaccination has a full reach and especially a full reach with the second dose.

Liverpool Lib Dems have currently voluntarily stopped all external campaigning although there are some external things that we could clearly do under the Government’s regulations.

However, there is no way that we could contemplate the door to door conversations that we believe are a vital part of democracy. We wouldn’t want to do it and we certainly would not be well received.

The polling stations will clog up. Filling in four ballots with inevitable queries about which ballot to put where will slow down the process. Not all our polling stations can be made Covid-secure and we are not clear how social distancing and regular cleansing would work between voters and between voters and staff. Many will choose to stay away and no matter what we do would put voters and polling and counting staff would be put at risk.

We have a simple solution. Delay the elections for two months so that they take place on the first Thursday in July. This would mean that the vaccination programme would have reached into the vast majority of the adult community. Warm nights would enable us to deliver and door knock safely providing suitable protocols were put in place by the political parties.

To have the elections on the current date would make them unsafe and liable to fail to reflect the views of the population. Delaying them for 2 months, subject to any other problem that might arise in the medium term, will make them safe and with a good level of participation.

I realise that your probably don’t really care about in elections in Liverpool where the Tory Party just doesn’t exist in any meaningful way. However, we think that our call here for a deferment should happen because the impact that the virus will have on all elections in England.

My colleagues and I would be pleased to discuss this matter with your staff at any time.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kemp sig

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Lib Dem Leader,

Liverpool City Council

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The stalled developments in Liverpool that will cost £billions to put right

Happily Norfolk Street was completed after it stalled for a year or so. There are now 39 developments in Liverpool that may never be completed and hundreds of £millions may be lost from unfortunate investors.

In September last year I called for a task force to be established within the Council to look at the size and complexity of the stalled development scene in Liverpool. I also asked for a report under the ‘Councillor’s Right to Know’ about these stalled developments. That task force was set up and I have just received an edited version of the report it has produced. The edits arise because many of the facts within the main report are clearly commercially confidential. Making them public would make tackling the problems even harder.

If you had asked me 6 months ago how many sites there were I would have said 16 or 17, but the report compiled by the Task Force working throughout the Autumn has indicated that there are up to 39 stalled sites in the City Centre and immediately adjacent to it and that the solution to dealing with them will be complex and involve a range of national and local agencies in addition to the Combined Authority, City Council and the private sector. In total this probably means between 5,000 and 7,000 units of accommodation which are part completed and which have been sold with guaranteed returns to investors looking for a high rate of return on their investments.

I am pleased that the Council is clearly getting to grips with 10 years of problems within its regeneration department and that the new regime and methods introduced by the Chief Executive are both showing the problem’s extent but also beginning to search out solutions for the derelict sites which are littering our City Centre and the areas immediately adjacent.

When I asked for this report to be produced, I had no idea that the scale of the problem was a great as is revealed by this work. The problems of some of them such as the Rise development and the Paramount development on Lime Street are well known but the fact that the Paramount site has now been half completed for 4.5 years indicates just how difficult the problem is to deal with.

This is particularly true of sites built using the fractional investment model where there is now doubt about who owns what. On one development the individual investors have taken out more than 200 individual charges against an incomplete building which might, in practice, have no value. In others there may be a private sector solution with a simpler debt structure whereby administrators can seek a take over of assets and a disposal to a competent developer. Dealing with this will be a tremendously complex legal and financial task which may well take years.

In either case, I cannot see how on most sites the private sector can get there money back. In some cases, there is a little money in the hands of administrators but if there had been enough money to finish the sites they would have been finished. In other cases, large amounts or work needs doing and all the money has been used up or is just missing.

That means that in the vast majority of cases there is clearly going to be public sector money needed to either finish off or demolish half completed buildings and remediate the land for sale. We cannot yet begin to put a price on this but it will be huge, probably £1 billion+ and it is right that the Council keeps the Government fully informed of the progress being made because the Council clearly has not got all the cash required.

The Council is having to find money in the short term to pay for a semi-permanent team to pursue these issues on a site by site basis. It is applying to the Liverpool Combined Authority for the cash for this short to medium term work. Most sites will need structural reports to indicate what is saveable; legal reports which indicate what the current ownership structures are. Then financial reports will need to be produced which indicate who owns what and what assets there are available. Only then can a way forward be found for these sites. It is likely that some of these sites will take years to sort out others might be dealt with quickly with the backing of the Council.

Where will the money come from? The Council has no spare cash although in some cases it may be possible to invest in these sites if the eventual quality will meet the quality and type that the Council wants to see developed.  Basically, we don’t need more one bed apartments or student pods. We need family accommodation some of which could be in blocks but most of which needs to be provided at a lower level than a tower.

In addition, there are numerous other sites where litigation is in play on developed sites where there are physical problems, such as Fox Street, or other sites where the developers are in dispute with investors about a failure to deliver promised returns.

I was contacted recently by an investor from a small development in Liverpool 18. In this case although the retail units on the ground floor are occupied and paying rent to the developer none of the student rooms have been let since the Council closed them 3 years ago on safety grounds. Investors have received no payment for 3 years and the whole project is now in administration. This site is not a stalled development

At least now the Council is acknowledging the scale of the problem but it will take a lot of time and money to build out, or demolish for more appropriate family development, some of these stalled sites. I know that a lot of you want to see action and indeed, despite the fact that I have been battling these developments and seeking answers for 6 years, some think that I have been dragging my heels on the issues.

I feel however, that we are beginning to bottom this out and that we need to proceed cautiously rather than speedily. If money has been taken illegally, I want people to be brought to justice. If money has been used badly, I want those people never again to be able to run companies that fleece people. If investors money can be saved in all or part by patient negotiation, I want it to be saved. If we can get money from the Government or the private sector because we methodically prepare the ground for receiving such money, I want to be patient.

As citizens we should never forget and never forgive the problems that have been caused to so many small investors all over the world who have been fleeced in our City. Nor should we forget the role of the Council in allowing to happen and in many cases encouraging to happen developments that were at best reckless and at worst totally fraudulent. What is certain is that this is a set of actions that will weigh the City down for many years to come and that those who allowed it to happen must pay an electoral price.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ethical investment – greenwash or something that has real meaning

You might wonder how a Company which is committed to disinvestment from fossil fuels can invest in a coal burning power plant like this. But they are doing!

One of the things that I do that occupies a lot of my time but which I talk about rarely is to be the chair of LAMIT. This is the short version of the Local Authority Mutual Investment Trust. This is basically a series of funds which enables local authorities to effectively and safely invest in funds for the short, medium and long term.

Those funds are managed for us by a ‘City’ Company called CCLA. This in turn stands for Churches, Charities and Local Authorities. In other words, they manage funds for the various none-profit making sectors in the UK and currently have about £11 billion of funds in our control. This sounds a lot but is relatively small within the ‘City’ of London where some funds have £trillions invested.

Our investment funds are directed by Boards which are composed of people from the respective sectors. In the case of Councils 8 of the 12 directors are nominated by the UK’s 4 LGAs and the remaining Board members have direct local government experience. When we set investment aims, we set them in ways that are consistent with what we know to be the ethical requirements of the LGAs who in turn understand the requirements of their member councils.

Our Church funds are largely held for the Church of England where the Board is guided by active partnership with the Church’s own fund managers. We are about to launch a fund for the Catholic Church which is based on extensive discussion with the UK’s Catholic Bishops and their advisers.

Our ownership structure means that we, and CCLA who act for us, take ethical investment seriously. It is the very cause of our existence and is the central tenet of the way that we do business.

I have been delighted recently that more and more people that I talk are talking to me about how they want their money to properly invested. They don’t want to invest in companies that despoil the environment, who invest in cheap or slave labour; who don’t take women’s and labour rights as a part of their work or who are exploitative in other ways. You might think that this has nothing to do with you because you are not an investor. I bet you are! Anyone who pays into a private pension or many public sector pensions like council ones, are effectively share or bond holders because that’s where your money is invested until you need it.

The big pension and insurance companies are aware of these conversations and are increasingly marketing their products as having an ethical framework and basis. The question is, “do they really mean it or is it just a marketing ploy?”

BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, holds investments worth $85bn in coal companies, a year after it promised to sell most of its shares in producers of the fossil fuel.

A loophole in the asset manager’s policy means it is still allowed to hold shares in companies that earn less than a quarter of their revenues from coal, meaning it has held on to shares or bonds from some of the world’s biggest coalminers and polluters. Those companies included the Indian conglomerate Adani, the UK-listed commodities companies BHP and Glencore, and the German energy company RWE, according to research by Reclaim Finance and Urgewald, two campaign groups.

Coal production is seen as one of the dirtiest ways of generating power, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calculated that coal-fired power generation would have to be all but eliminated by 2050 to prevent global heating of more than 1.5°C.

Investors have gradually taken note, and BlackRock’s coal divestment pledge, first made in January 2020, was hailed by activists as a victory. Environmental groups hoped that other asset managers would follow the lead of BlackRock, which managed assets worth $7.8tn (£5.7tn) at the end of September.

The campaigners who carried out the latest research have now called for the CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink, to divest fully from coal, including from its $24bn in assets in companies planning to expand coal production, such as Japan’s Sumitomo and Korea’s Kepco.

“One year on, it’s hard to see Larry Fink’s sustainability commitment as anything other than greenwashing,” said Lara Cuvelier, a campaigner at Reclaim Finance. “If he really wants BlackRock to be a climate leader instead of a climate pariah, he needs to start aligning green words with green deeds, and direct BlackRock’s awesome financial power towards a sustainable future. After the hottest year on record, the bare minimum for BlackRock is to get out of coal once and for all.”

BlackRock said it has completely divested all companies with more than a quarter of thermal coal revenues from active investment strategies, and that it offers clients the choice of excluding coal in its index products, which track lists of companies such as London’s FTSE 100.

Just compare that with the practical actions of CCLA.

It is working extensively not only in its own work but by leading actions on behalf of much bigger investment firms to deal with issues ranging from modern slavery to the mental health of employees. This work on mental health started in 2019 but has really come to the fore in the pandemic circumstances within which firms have been operating for the past year. The following part of this blog has been written for an investment forum, Room 101, by one of CCLAs ethical leads, Amy Brown

The development of CCLA’s mental health benchmark

We are living through a public health emergency in more ways than one. Physical health and safety may be consuming current public discourse, but we are also facing an unprecedented mental health crisis.

Pre-pandemic research showed that poor mental health costs the government between £24bn and £27bn per year. That was before Covid-19. Government-enforced lockdowns, rigorous social distancing measures and strict quarantine rules have resulted in a new era of unique psychological distress. A report by Simetrica-Jacobs and the London School of Economics estimates the daily wellbeing cost to adults during this time at £2.25bn. Or £43 per adult per day.

So many of us are now under a cloud as we struggle through the pandemic. Companies need to be aware of the problems faced by their staff.

Why is this relevant to investors?

As investors, we want the companies in which we invest to be successful. Poor mental health in the workplace costs employers in the private sector an average of £1,652 per employee. This is for every employee. Sickness absence, combined with “presenteeism”, staff turnover, and “leaveism” all contribute.

We believe that poor mental health represents an obstacle to corporate success. Put simply, employers are losing billions of pounds because employees are less productive, off sick or leaving work all together.

What is the opportunity?

Local authorities play a key remedial role in supporting those with poor mental health in their communities. They also have a duty to safeguard the mental wellbeing of their own two million-strong workforce. Yet there is a third avenue—frequently forgotten—that can help to address the problem from the ground.

As investors, with circa £46bn collectively, local authorities have an opportunity to use their influence as stakeholders to improve the way that businesses approach the health of their people.

Why take this opportunity? Because as guardians of public money, they have a moral and economic duty to push for positive change. Because irrespective of its cause, the workplace is a setting that can assist in the identification of mental illness and facilitation of proper treatment. Because creating a positive environment for mental health costs less than failing to do so: the average return to employers for every £1 spent is £5.

CCLA’s mental health engagement work

We began our mental health programme in February 2019. Using the recommendations set out by the government commissioned Thriving at work report, and the input of an advisory committee, we created a set of best-practice measures for companies to address. On discussing these with some of our investee companies, it quickly became clear that we were the only investors asking questions about workplace wellbeing.

In April 2020, in the thick of the first Covid-19 outbreak, we built a coalition of investors with £2.2trn in assets under management and wrote on their behalf to the CEO of every FTSE 100 company. The letter urged these 100 leaders to protect the mental health of their 4.7 million employees during the pandemic.

The value of positive influence

Of the 100 companies targeted, 74 responded. We were encouraged in many ways; though there was little commonality in approach, insufficient monitoring, and a lack of commitment by senior leaders. Our work confirmed our belief that poor mental health is a systemic—rather than company-specific— problem. It requires greater pressure from stakeholders.

In response, we are building the CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark. The benchmark will act as a framework for investors to assess how companies compare on safeguarding the wellbeing of their workforce. By introducing a new element of competition, it will also incentivise companies to address poor workplace mental health head on.

CCLA would love to hear from you

We are working in partnership with Chronos Sustainability in building the benchmark and are delighted to have the support of mental health charity, Mind, and Lord Dennis Stevenson as we take our next steps.

We are running a public consultation into the design and scope of the benchmark, which will be live until the end of January 2021. If you would like to contribute, or for more information, please visit CCLA.

My Plea to you!

Just to make clear I don’t get paid for my work with CCLA which I do on behalf of the LGA. So when I ask you to consider the following two things I won’t be getting a commission if you follow the first piece of advice!!

Firstly, if you are someone who works within the Church, Charity or local authority sectors please find out whether or not your organisation is rising to the investment challenges of good ethical investment. Does it really mean it – is it as good as probing the organisations it invests with a s CCLA is. Of course, the next question has to be:

Secondly, is your organisation invested within CCLA already and if not why not. This is particularly true for this within the Catholic Church whose funds will be launched in April.

On top of these two there is a further question for us as individuals. Are the bits of money that we have for savings and pensions doing the right things for us and the communities we live in. The little bit of cash that Erica and I have is kept with the Lodge Lane Credit Union. We make a decent return on it by way of dividend but just as importantly for us that money is lent to people in deprived parts of Liverpool as easily accessible and relatively cheap loans which release them from the fear of loan sharks and spivs.

Please note that this blog is a personal one and all thoughts in it, unless attributed to someone else, are my own and not necessarily those of LAMIT or CCLA.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keir Starmer’s Labour Party rats out on European ideals

Keir Starmer has become Johnson’s little helper in delivering a dreadful Brexit for the British people despite what his Party said at the last election and what he said when he was looking for votes in the Labour leadership contest

I wasn’t surprised but I was upset to hear Keir Starmer break with Labour’s General Election manifesto commitments and indeed the motions passed by the Labour Conference regarding Europe.

Keir Starmer has abandoned the commitment of free movement in the EU, a promise he made to Labour members during the party’s leadership contest. He said that Labour had to be honest with the public and added that if it won the next general election a major renegotiation of the Brexit treaty would not be possible.

When he was standing for the Labour leadership, Starmer had said that he would “defend free movement” as the UK left the EU. Back in 2019, he had also said that he would bring back free movement of EU citizens in the UK. However, now Starmer has ruled out the sort of extensive renegotiation of the Brexit that would be required to restore free movement. 

When speaking to BBC, Starmer said he doesn’t think there’s scope for major renegotiation. He said that after four years, the UK has arrived at a treaty and now they’ve got to make that deal work. He added that there were, however, aspects of the agreement that might be improved on, including how it covered the creative industries and what it did for the service sector, which he said had largely been left out. 

The Labour leader said that it was not realistic to pretend that the EU would want to negotiate a new Brexit agreement with the UK. He said that whether his party members like it or not, it is going to be the treaty that an incoming Labour government inherits and has to make work. It is worth noting that free movement became an issue in the leadership campaign after the party conference backed the principle in autumn 2019. The commitment was linked to defending migrants’ rights, but it also contradicted previous party comments saying free movements would end if the UK left the EU. 

I disagree with Starmer on this matter. There are many in Europe who would welcome back the UK if we came with open minds and a willingness to engage properly with the EU’s principles and commitments.

I wasn’t surprised by Starmer’s statements because Labour has always been two faced about Europe. Corbyn and his clique clearly saw it as a capitalist conspiracy conspiring to bring down workers wages and condition. In the real world however, it did just the opposite. It began to bring decent worker’s rights to the workers of the UK and gave protection around a host of environmental and health and safety concerns.

Labour refused to join with the other pro-Europe Parties such as the Lib Dems and the Greens in a united Remain campaign at the referendum. Indeed, Corbyn went on holiday during a crucial week long period of campaigning. On more than 20 occasions since 2016 when they could have made a stand and in some cases brought the Government down on EU issues alongside the Lib Dems, Nationalists and Tory dissidents they sat on their hands allowed retrograde EU measures through.

I can think of no good reason for Starmer ignoring his own and his Party’s pledges at this time. Everyone is beginning to see the effects of this reckless Brexit. Northern Ireland particularly is facing shortages of basic supplies. After an initial build-up of stock in a whole range of activities the increased and uncertain problems of bureaucracy is preventing everything from car components to fresh food from getting through.

Twitter and radio call shows are full of complaints from people who have found that the cost of importing and exporting to and from continental Europe has doubled or trebled delivery charges to make some elements of trade unsustainable even though there is no duty payable.

Cheese makers and fishing folk have found that despite the no tariffs of the agreement a whole range of regulations, many of them almost incomprehensible, have prevented them making cost effective deliveries of products not just to continental Europe but to the rest of the world as well.

Now is the time to put that awareness to god effect and recruit people to the cause of internationalism. Instead Starmer does a ‘Grand old Duke of York’ impersonation and, having marched his troops to the top of the hill has marched them down again. He and the majority of his Party voted for Brexit on 30 December. Now they must own Brexit alongside their Tory mates.

During the period between the referendum and last December I was pleased to go to meeting after meeting and speak alongside Labour people like Theresa Griffin, Maria Eagle, Louise Ellman, Cllr Nick Small and many more. I know that people like Cllr Paul Brant feel as passionately about Erasmus, the free movement of Labour and the opportunities and benefits of European Union membership as I do.

What they will do about it is up to them. Will they work within their Party to try and change what is a fundamental movement away from a basic Labour principle or will they just roll over?

I know what I and my Party will do. At our Conference last September, we overwhelmingly backed a Rejoin motion. Because our policy is made by our Party members that is what we will do, say and campaign for. I expect that ‘Rejoin’ will be part of our manifesto whenever the next General Election is held.

In Liverpool, Lib Dems will continue to ensure that we examine and support the relationships between the City and Europe in any way possible. We know and will always remember that we are a major European City. We are now outside the EU but would do much better inside it. That is a fact that more and more people are beginning to see.

If we have to take on the Liverpool Labour Party as well as Starmer’s Tory mates to do that – so be it!

Posted in Brexit | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Council proposals will close St John’s Market for ever

In happier days Cllr Juarez and I joined the campaign for the market traders of St Johns Market at the request of the late, great John Foley of Toy Story. Liverpool Lib Dems will continue to fight to for the Market in his memory

Liverpool City Council never ceases to amaze me although by now I should be beyond surprise. This time it’s a proposal to levy rents and service charges for St John’s Market which will effectively close it for good.

Since the re-opening of the Market in 2017 the Council has raised very little from rent and service charges because the design of the Market was so poor that it brought instant condemnation. It was redesigned by an architect with no experience of markets. Perhaps Government Inspector Max Caller might enquire into how this happened. The Council involved neither market traders or market users in the redesign. The resultant market looks like an adjunct to an abattoir. Market traders have done their best. There are some real bargains to be had there, I look in regularly myself, but couldn’t overcome the drabness of the building.

Mr Caller might also enquire why the offers of rent reduction for a few months then a few more months were not properly reported to Cabinet and why hardly any rent or service charge has been invoiced since October 2017 when no authority was given for this.

What is St John’s Market for in the days of Poundland and other bargain basement companies? I don’t know. Crucially, however the council didn’t bother to ask that question before spending more than £2.75 million on this project. Given the costs that have been incurred since then total costs are now more than £4.5 million.

Some of the redesign money was totally wasted. The first floor was also converted to trading areas complete with roller shutters which were on site but never installed. 18 months after this work was done it was undone to provide a new home for the City Centre One Stop Shop. One of the theories being that this would drive up footfall in the market area. It hasn’t!

The report, being presented to next month’s Cabinet, suggests that rent and service charges start to be paid from January and that it be increased to a full rental after three months. I believe that it will make the market unviable and is simply a prelude to its permanent closure. To start introducing a rent and service charge when 95% of the market is being closed due to lockdown is an incredibly stupid thing to do. How the traders will pay these with no income is beyond me.

More importantly in the long term even when the situation returns to normal the rents and service charge will be too high for the likely takings in the market. It was doing badly even before the virus struck. It is badly designed and unattractive.  It is now clear that there will be considerably less footfall in the City Centre as people have begun to explore different ways of shopping and more workers will now work from home. Now the Council must begin to review how the City Centre works and the Market and the space outside it could become an important pivot for a renaissance of the City Centre.

In September the traders wrote to the Council offering to start paying rent and service charge building up to 75% of the previously agreed figure. That letter sent to Mayor Anderson’s office was never responded to. So, let’s be clear, the traders want to pay rent and service charges and have offered to do so but those costs must be at a level which will mean that they can make a living from the Market. Charge the rents that were agreed in 2017 and the Market will close for good. After being the markets authority for more than 813 years you would think that by now someone would have a decent idea how to run one.

As always with Liverpool Council we need to examine whether or not there is another motive for the Council’s actions. The Council has been clear that it has been seeking another use for the Market for the last two years and was seeking a solution that would enable the existing traders to continue trading although it was never clear whether that would mean a continuation of trading on the current market site. So, has another occupant been found for the Market? Is this just a cheap way of getting the traders out without paying them compensation for loss of earnings and a recovery of the extremely high capital outlay for fitting out their stalls that many of them have made in their premises?

I think that the Council should accept the Traders offer of rent and service charge payments and work with them to create a viable and thriving market that people will want to visit. In the meantime, we will call in this report to the Regeneration Select Committee to allow the Traders the opportunity to directly talk to Cllrs about the ways forward.

I got involved in the problems of the market within weeks of the reopening at the request of the late and great John Foley. It is in his memory that I will continue to fight for the Market that he traded in for so many years and which still has a value to many of the people of Liverpool over and above the rents and service charges which the Council should be getting for the building.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

We MUST make this lockdown work

If we all work together as one community to minimise the opportunity for the virus to spread from person to person we can end the pandemic within months. So follow the rules and keep safe for just a few more months

I took my exercise yesterday, as I did in the first lockdown, walking around my Church Ward. I was surprised at how unlike the first lockdown it was. Allerton Road felt quieter than normal but much more business like than the first lockdown. Outside the school opening and closing hours traffic only seemed marginally down on normal.

Only when I had to pop into the City council to pick up something from the Council did I feel that things were anything but normal.

There are some good reasons for this new ‘normality’. Businesses and residents have found out how to cope during a pandemic from their practice in the first and less so, the second lockdown.

There has been little stock piling of essentials as we know that the products we need will still be available to us. Our continued obsession with loo rolls seems to continue though. The banks are open almost normal hours. The small shops have been equipped with screens and sanitizer and can safely trade if their service is permitted. The restaurants who had to learn how to become take-aways have quickly sorted themselves back into the takeaway routine. All this means that there are no lengthy queues as in the first lockdown.

However, when I went into a shop, having put my mask on, two of the customers had no mask on. They may have a medical exemption but they seemed a robust couple of people having a good natter within a metre of each other. I left the shop and returned after they had left.

A small number of people clearly have no idea just how dangerous the virus is. Currently 2% of the population of the UK have the virus active within them. Every single one of those can pass that virus on. Some of those do not know that they have the virus. We know that infections lead to illness; that a proportion of those ill lead to a serious illness and a proportion of those will die.

It’s not just a problem for the elderly. Approximately 40% of the infections are in people under 25. They probably won’t die but that does not mean they will not be affected. Some of them will have long-Covid which keeps them weak and debilitated for months. Others will not know that they have a health problem for 10 years when they find that their body has been weakened today.

In the meantime, our beloved NHS is being overrun. Doctors, nurses and ancillary staff have been on the front line since last February with only brief respite. Our Intensive Care units are being overrun. We are running out of oxygen and beds. The consequences to our caring staff both in the NHS and care homes will be with them for a long time with mental problems following up the

There is light at the end of the tunnel but that tunnel is a very long one! The second vaccine starts to eb rolled out today although, given the appalling way track and trace ahs been handled, I have no hope that the roll out will go smoothly.

I suspect that there are two reasons that some people are choosing to interpret the rules to suit their own desires.

Firstly, we are all sick of it and desperately want to have life as normal. We want to meet, socialise and not bother about bubbles. We want to keep our businesses going again properly, to develop our careers, to get to school and pass our exams. We want to both watch and take part in sport. There is a yearning for us to be able to behave as part of society.

Secondly, people just don’t trust the Government. It’s not just the Cummings affair. Polling has shown that there was a Cummings effect based on the principle, “If he can do it why can’t the rest of us?” It is more that Buffoon Boris and his team of intellectual pygmies continually over promise and under deliver. Remember the world class App; the world class track and trace; the 100,000 tests a day before then of April. None of these targets have been met. The UK has a worse record than most of Europe. This is a scandal when we have the 5th biggest economy.

The sooner that we get the virus sorted by vaccination the sooner we can start doing all these things that we so love doing. Let’s be frank though. It’s a race between the vaccine and the virus and currently the virus is winning. We can all play our part in ensuring that the virus doesn’t win. The solutions are incredibly simple:

Only go out if you need to. Yes, if you can get out for a good walk around the park etc its good for your mental and physical help.

If you have a job where you can work from home do so. If your employer is reluctant to allow you to do this remember that the recommendations of Monday became law yesterday. If you have concerns report your employer to the public health team at the Council.

If you have a frontline job which means that you cannot work from home keep to the recommendations of the Government. Keep your face covered; use sanitizer regularly; maximise the space between you and co-workers.

Don’t go into other people’s homes except for the permitted reasons of providing child care or assistance to someone who is ill.

If you are on the official shielding list stay at home. If you need help with shopping or getting in vital supplies there are many organisations and individuals who will help you.

One of the organisations that can help is the Liberal Democrats. We have seriously curtailed our activities and will be doing nothing which involves meeting people for any purpose until medical advice changes. That does NOT mean that we are not around to help. To contact your councillors or our activists in your ward check out our details on our website www.liverlibdems.org.uk.

The most optimistic estimate is that it will be mid-March before the vaccination roll out has hit a high proportion of people most likely to be affected and the lockdown has seriously eroded the high infection rates.

This is not the right note that we all wanted to start 2021 on after a dreadful 2020. It is, however, the only note that we can play. Stay in, stay safe, keep your distance, wash your hands and most of us in April will be able to see the light at the end of that tunnel and hope for a better life.

And one last thing. The Clap for our heroes starts again tonight. The people in the NHS, the people in our care homes, the people who keep our food supplies going; the people who empty our bins; the Police who watch over us and the delivery drivers who bring stuff to our doors. I’ll be clapping for them at 7pm every Thursday. I hope that you will to.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why a Lib Dem ‘Mayor’ would be different for Liverpool

A Lib Dem led Liverpool Council would work in a very different way from what happens now. We will introduce a system which is transparent and accountable and in which all Liverpool Councillors can play a full part in holding the executive, political and managerial, to account.

Since the demise of Joe Anderson, a number of people have challenged me to say why it would be different if I become the Mayor on May 6th. It will be very different because I will change the way that Liverpool is run to a system that is transparent, accountable and one that works in partnership with the people of Liverpool

Of course, polices are important. Over the next few months, we will be issuing a regular series of articles and blogs which say what our policies will be if we were to take control of he Council in May but good policies won’t flourish on barren ground. The major problem of the past decade is not so much the policies that were pursued although they were bad enough! It was the system which allowed all sorts of poor policies to flourish without checks, balances or scrutiny. Unless you change that Liverpool will not improve.

This is what the Liverpool Lib Dem team and I will do if elected as the Mayor and you can see the action will be comprehensive and swift.

Six to Fix. In the first 5 minutes of being elected I will:

  1. Change the name of the position I hold to that of Leader of the Council. This will not change the legal powers but will show the direction of travel that the Lib Dems want to take.
  2. Change the name of the Cabinet to Executive Board.
  3. Request the Head of Democratic Services to halve the salary currently being paid to the Mayor.
  4. Extend an offer to the other Party Leaders to meet with me to discuss how the Executive Board and Select Committees can be all-Party and purposeful rather than small minded and divisive.
  5. Request the Head of Democratic Services to revise the standing orders and programmes of the Council to take out all ‘mayoral’ programmes which will in future become programmes of the entire Council.
  6. Request the Head of Democratic Services to draw up and initiate a monthly two-hour session in which any citizen of Liverpool, organisation in Liverpool, business person in Liverpool can question and challenge me in public. (the details of how this will be done can only be decided later when we know what Covid rules are.

Six to Fix. Within 28 days of being elected I will:

  1. Establish a public record of all meetings I have in connection with my work which can be checked on the Council’s website. Ensure that a note is taken contemporaneously of all meetings should challenge to those meetings be made.
  2. Request the City Solicitor to draw up a stronger Councillor’s Code of Conduct to ensure that no councillor meets a developer or contactor in private without an officer being present and party to the discussions.
  3. Request the Chief Executive to establish a performance management system in which all Councillors will be able to track the Council’s performance against other Councils.
  4. Initiate a report on how the Council can enter into a meaningful discussion with the people of Liverpool about moving away from the Mayoral model to another system if that is the will of the people of the City.
  5. Initiate the development of a new public partnership between the Council, Business and community organisations which can publicly work together to develop the Liverpool Recovery Plan.
  6. Initiate a ‘programme of conversations’ with the people of Liverpool to ensure that the whole City is involved in developing and committed to a new, clean, green, well managed City in which we can prosper.

We Liberal Democrats don’t believe that we have all the answers to the complex problems which Liverpool faces because of its history, Brexit and Covid. Lots of people have lots of good ideas based on their own knowledge and experience that no political Party could ever have.

We Liberal Democrats do not believe that we alone can do everything to solve those problems. Liverpool is potentially in a dark place and it will take the actions of all of us to shine the light and make our City into the major, progressive forward-looking City we all know that we need to be.

The changes that we will make as indicated above will provide the fertile soil within which good policies can be nourished and grow to provide us with a good harvest for a City.

But just so that there is no misunderstanding. IF YOU ELECT ME AS MAYOR ON MAY 6th, I WILL BE THE LAST ELECTED MAYOR THAT LIVERPOOL WILL EVER HAVE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joe Anderson will be like the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Council

A ring wraith or the Ghost of Christmas Past? Take your pick. Anderson should have resigned today to partly remove the dark cloud over our City.

Today’s announcement by Mr Anderson brings further shame to our City. He won’t resign but he won’t do anything either! He should have resigned when it became clear that the investigation in which has been arrested but not charged will be a long one.

 There is no way he could be cleared quickly and there is no way that Labour would have allowed him to be the candidate for the Mayoral election on May 6th unless he had been cleared. By not immediately resigning today Joe Anderson has prevented the City from moving on. He will exist within the Council like the Ghost of Christmas Past.

He will still be the Mayor even if not doing anything but he will be a lame duck Mayor not capable of making any decisions but preventing any major changes from the acting Mayor, Wendy Simon. Will he really be able to not interfere? After all he is still legally the Mayor and much of the Council’s Constitution is written to give him almost unfettered power.

Given his previous track record we wonder if he will really continue in post until May 6th without taking the £29,000 salary he would be legally entitled to.

Liberal Democrats regret that Joe Anderson won’t be the Labour candidate at the election May. We wanted to defeat him at the ballot box when the people of Liverpool would have had the opportunity to question him about the many failings on his watch particularly in the financial and development fields. Even before the election we wanted him to defend his record especially at the Budget Meeting of the Council in March.

Liverpool has the unenviable record of 15 arrests of Council staff, the Mayor, and people connected with the Council in just 4 years. We understand that there are more to come!

A Government Inspector has been assigned to the Council. We believe that there is much to find in the Council’s past although we  believe that much has already been done to ensure that the Council never ever sinks to such depths.

There will be an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council on 20th January at which the Lib Dems will again seek to abolish the position of Elected Mayor.

If that fails then there will be a clear choice for the people of Liverpool. With only 2 Parties capable of winning the Mayoral election they can choose between a Labour Candidate who is either a current councillor who is complicit in all Joe Anderson’s failures or a candidate from outside without the experience to run the City in this difficult time.

The alternative will be to vote for an experienced Liberal Democrat team which will be led by me which will bring accountability, openness and a partnership with the people of Liverpool to take the City out of the property scandals and the Covid crisis.

We believe that the City needs a clean break from the past and that the only way to achieve this is for the City to support the Liberal Democrat Team with the experience and the clean slate to take the City forward.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment