St Johns Market- A tale of council incompetence!

toy story

Cllr Juarez and I visited the traders at St John’s Market for a 3rd time. At the committee this week we want the whole story and not the Toy Story!

You would think that after 810 years as a market authority we would have learned just a little bit about how to run a market. Apparently in the 810 years since we first received our Market Charter Liverpool City Council has learned nothing.

Cllr Juarez and I visited the market again today to hear first hand from the traders what their issues are. This is in advance of a meeting of the Regeneration Select Committee on Thursday when Cllr Juarez has a motion down for discussion.

Mirna and I felt humbled in the presence of the traders. These are people whose livelihoods have been threatened by council incompetence and many of them have had severe problems at home because of their money problems. Yet they were prepared to listen and talk to us; to make sure that we knew their side of the story and were coming up with very reasonable requests to the council to try, even at this late stage, to put things right.

This matter could not, under any circumstances, have been handled worse. Let’s start from a starting point which we can all agree on. The old St John’s Market was staggering along and had not adapted to modern times. Although 40/50 traders were making a reasonable living at the market the upper floor had not been used for years and there was a considerable danger of continued decline.

The first problem was that the Council conspicuously refused to involve traders in the design process. Who knows best how to make markets work? Two lots of people – the traders and the customers. Neither set was consulted.

This led to the second problem. No decision was made about what he market was for. Was it supposed to be cheap and cheerful or posh and attracting different customers. In some ways it does not matter what the choice was although I would have gone for the cheap and cheerful a decision should have been made and the design altered to meet that vision.

Thirdly a company was appointed that had no experience of designing markets. In some ways you might consider that this is not too important. Anyone can go and see successfully upgraded and modernised markets throughout the North of England. But clearly no-one went to look.

So a market was designed with all the feel of an accident and emergency unit. Dark cubicles, poor signage and poor attention to detail. Traders knew this was a problem and many decided, having seen it, not to come back. Others came in and left after a few weeks. The market now has only 29 traders, some might have been persuaded to stay by the actions of the Labour Council after Cllr Juarez went to visit and put down the motion which you can see below.

Then crass decision followed crass decision. Unbelievably for a retail place there was absolutely no marketing budget. Appallingly high rents were set which would have been difficult to achieve under any circumstances, but definitely difficult if there were no visitors.

With lots of empty spaces in what the council considered to be prime sites new businesses in the food sector were pushed to the periphery where there is next to no footfall.

The response from the council was dire. It was clear in early January that there were serious problems. A new manager was brought in but not allowed to manage. Traders debts grew and some left. Attempts to bring in new ideas such as a toddler’s area were rejected although this would have been a huge draw for mums to have a cup of tea, a cake and a chat whilst watching their children in the central area. The Council refused to engage, the new manager went and someone else has now been brought in.

The Mayor finally came to call properly. In his first visit, he met just two traders recently he came back to try and meet all the remaining traders but the council is still proceeding poorly. The long-term future of the market can only be assured if the council involve users and traders and do it quickly there is no sign of that happening.

Meanwhile most of the council seem to be bemused by the whole set of events. The Regeneration Select Committee should already have set up a ‘task and finish group’ to look at these problems, decide what went wrong and made recommendations. BUT they did not do so. Labour Councillors are not allowed to scrutinise the Executive without permission from the Executive!!

So we are where we are! Cllr Juarez will move her motion in committee and we all hope, especially the traders, that it will be supported by the committee. I fear that politics will get in the way. That is sad because this is people’s livelihoods we are talking about here and perhaps that of their family as well. I attach Cllr Juarez’s motion below tell her what you think about it at mirna.juarez@liverpool.gov.uk. Above all pop in to the Market and spend a few bob. There are some good traders and more than a few bargains to be had there!!

Motion to the Regeneration Select Committee

Cllr Mirna Juarez

This Committee notes with concern the serious problems being faced by market traders at St John’s Market where only 29 out of 140 units are currently taken and with some traders giving notice to terminate their lease as they are currently not even covering their costs.

It resolves therefore to establish a ‘Task and Finish Group’ to:

  1. Review how the council can have spent £2.5 million on such a poorly designed market which has ignored all the opinions of experienced market traders and best practice in market design;
  2. Review all aspects of the capital programme for the market including
  3. Review how the council can redesign the market in such a way as to give high quality physical conditions in which a market can thrive rather than the soulless sterile feel of the current market.
  4. Establish appropriate relationships between the council and the market traders
  5. Look at the development of a marketing campaign to attract both customers and traders to the market
  6. Develop a programme of events to enable some life to be given to the market to create an appropriate atmosphere.

The Task and Finish Group to be composed equally of traders and councillors.

The Task and Finish Group to meet urgently to consider these and other appropriate matters with a view to completing their report by the end of September.

It requests the Mayor and Cabinet to give urgent consideration to a 50% reduction in rent levels at the market until the proposals of the Task and Finish Group can be implemented following the reporting of the Task Group to Cabinet.

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The joys of being a Councillor in Anderson’s Town Hall

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Mayor Joseph Anderson. The master of bluff and obfuscation

This is a blog with a difference. I am actually writing it during a council meeting in the Town Hall. You might think that I should have better things to do in a council meeting than write a blog but in all council meetings there is a huge amount of tedium where people recite prepared and partisan speeches which are occasionally interspersed with items of drama, tension or plain anger.

So, we are approaching 5.00pm. The Lord Mayor will be in soon and I am thinking about my first intervention which is to challenge the accuracy of the minutes of the last council meeting because they do not include a full report on the statement by the Mayor that they had legal advice that suspending a staff member without prejudice is in itself prejudicial.

Well that was a waste of time but I did try! The Mayor made a statement at the last council about how the Chief Executive had not been suspended because they had legal advice that suspending someone without prejudice was itself prejudicial. I tried to ensure that was written into the minutes of the Council because it has important ramifications for the way the council does its work.

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor were up and down like jack-in-a- boxes with the Mayor totally inventing something I had said just seconds before. This might sound trivial but it really is important.

We are now listening to a sombre but excellent statement from the Deputy Chief Fire Officer about what is happening in Merseyside after the Grenfell Tower disaster. They are doing a shed load of work to check properties and reassure tenants. Hundreds of blocks and individual properties visited and full checks in place across the conurbation. Well done our fire bobbies. A massive endorsement to them from every councillor across the political divide.

Then a cracking speech from Francis Molloy whose son was killed when an ‘accident’ was caused when a 17.5 hour tyre collapsed. Accident in inverted commas because this was no accident. Although regrettably not illegal the penny pinching actions of buying second hand and ancient tyres is grossly immoral.

Well that was a funny one. We had a statement from the Mayor updating us about the situation with the Chief Executive which didn’t say anything other than what was already in public. We were told that legal advice had been given that we couldn’t ask questions about this item! So, we didn’t. We can have a private and confidential meeting but I rarely go to those because I normally feel that if it cannot be said in public. I accept that in personal matters that can be changed. I don’t see any point to going to such a meeting in this case because I suspect I already know more than the Mayor is prepared to tell me!

But then the Mayor made no other statement. This meant that I could raise no questions on any of the issues that the people of Liverpool want to hear about. Not only the Chief Executive but St John’s Market; Chinatown; the Edge Lane hole; the city region squabbles (that will be the last item on the agenda) or anything at all. That’s why I don’t take Council meetings seriously they have very little bite or meaning.

Labour have just voted down an amendment which called for a reduction in allowances for members of the Transport Authority which is no longer an authority!

Now back to the subjects we had outside speakers for earlier. Grenfell Towers and the ‘Tyred Out’ campaign. We will not speak on these items not because we disagree but because we do agree. We need more regulations to protect our lives not less. Government continually gives the impression that ‘Health & Safety’ is just an unnecessary. Tell that to Francis Molloy and the relatives of the 80 who died in Grenfell Towers.

Actually, I did speak in support. There are times when we can just agree and support each other.

So, on both the two motions about safety the council voted unanimously to support them with an excellent speech for our own Cllr Juarez in support of the ‘Tyred Out’ motion. She spoke as a mum as well as a councillor.

Now we are on to a motion about the problems being faced by the Police and Police Officers. It is clear that there are huge problems here. The police are over stretched and are facing more dangerous problems with guns, knives and drugs. They cannot provide the day to day presence on our streets to reassure the community that want to. On many occasions, they seem to be more a quasi-military presence. This is regrettable but unavoidable given the terrible people that they have to face.

Again total unanimity but no real point to the speeches. We could have dealt with all this by letters, visits to the Government etc.

So we had a motion on breast feeding which was really just an opportunity to attack Andrew Makinson for a poorly expressed tweet. I wanted to speak but was not allowed to.

Then Labour refused to accept an amendment from us designed to correct a statement that the Lib Dem General Election manifesto would have taken money from Liverpool schools. I read out both the Labour and Lib Dem manifesto pieces which were almost identical. I told the Council where the money would come from according to our manifesto. Yet bigotry and bias won the day. Labour will go to any lengths to try and discredit the Lib Dems and deflect attention from their own inadequacies.

Now I have spoken in support of our motion to try and get people from all Parties to work together both inside the Labour Party and outside them to get the Liverpool City Region working properly. Anderson replies with an attack on the Liverpool Echo! This is really low life behaviour. The personal attack on an Echo reporter takes place in a place where he cannot reply. Anderson now seems to be saying that he didn’t say what he said in public and which Mayor Rotheram has responded to. I sometimes think he lives on another planet!! Apparently the two Mayors love each other! He didn’t respond to the complaints about withdrawing staff. He didn’t address the key points of his disagreement. He also didn’t say why he didn’t follow up the offers to work together that he initiated and to which Lib Dems responded.

Mayor Anderson not only didn’t address the issues he did what he normally does and went into personal invective. We were supported by the Liberal Party in this. We don’t always agree on things but sometimes the other Parties do and set a good example. What Mayor Anderson should have done whilst attacking me and the Liverpool Echo sit oi look at his own supporters. I can read politicians faces and many of them (the thinking ones) were not happy. The fact is that everyone within the Council Chamber knows that there is a serious rift between the Mayors and no amount of blustering or denial will stop that.

The Greens played a blinder this Council. They abstained three times on key issues! They were going to vote one way then voted another. They were all over the place.

So about 125 people have just spent an evening either politely supporting each other or slagging each other off. If people came to see us in action they would never vote again!

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Its downhill all the way for Anderson’s Labour Council

LpoolTH

I was going to put a picture of the Mayor of Liverpool here then I was reminded that I had promised not to scare any more children!!!

Sometimes it’s only when you look back that you see the signs that change was on the way. “Ah yes”, people say in hindsight, “that was the event, the week, the person that started the change”.

In Liverpool, however, things are much easier. I predict that this is the week that will turn the tide for Anderson’s Labour Party in Liverpool and that the decline will be seen to have started this week. This might seem a bit precocious from a party with only 4 councillors out of 90 and I am not saying it will be very quick or very easy but Anderson & Co are now firmly on the slippery path to defeat.

I think this for two reasons:

  1. I have been out door knocking throughout Liverpool. I know what people are saying about the Labour Party in the City. They are claiming Labour is corrupt and incompetent. I don’t actually believe that the Labour Party or individual Labour members are corrupt. It’s just that collectively they refuse to stand up to the man that they call, with no sense of affection, Uncle Joe. But incompetent, misguided and frequently deluded yes!!!

 

  1. There are seven policy issues which are coming together and to which the Council has no real response.

St John’s Market

£2.5 million blown away and huge losses being made by the council and traders on a daily basis. A programme of design and implementation that my colleague, Cllr Juarez, is demanding should be investigated by the Regeneration Select Committee. Typically, the council failed to involve the people with the best knowledge of the market – its traders – in any of the planning and implementation of the changes. Instead of a bustling market place they have created a sterile set of cubicles which have the appearance of a cross between an accident and emergency unit and a morgue.

The hole in Edge Lane

In Japan, a sink hole which opened up in a major Tokyo shopping street which was at least 4 times the size of the Edge Lane hole was completely filled in with all services restored in 10 days. In Liverpool, the small hole will take at least 3 months causing major problems in an area which already has major traffic problems.

The treatment of Mr Fitzgerald

For the 7 weeks since the last council meeting I have been try in g to find out from senior council officers what the advice was, who gave it and in response to what questions and information. The response from the Council has largely been on the lines of, “please sir the cat ate my homework!” Partial responses, evasive responses, tardy responses. All wholly unacceptable in the view of the senior team of advisers I have assembled from outside Liverpool. Two key questions remain unanswered. What are we paying/have paid Counsel and/or solicitors for in respect of Mr Fitzgerald’s previous employment in Rotheram which ended 15 years ago. What advice did we get in response to the position of Mr Fitzgerald having agreed to get paid for no work in contrast to 58 people who since 2009 have been treated differently and ‘suspended without prejudice”.

China Town

We are currently nursing a loss of £900,000+ for this scheme. Plenty of warning were given by plenty of people about the need for a high level of due diligence on the Council’s behalf before they went ahead with this. This has clearly been totally ignored. There are 3 other big schemes foundering at the moment because of legal and financial difficulties but still we give permission for more. The idea that we can CPO this site and deal with it that way is fanciful. CPOs take years, through in administrators, foreign investors etc and you are in deep bureaucracy territory.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

This is not just a ‘plaque on the wall in the Town Hall’ as the Mayor claims. The preservation and reuse of our fabulous city centre buildings should be the springboard to HIGH QUALITY new development. Instead because our Local Development Framework is 6 years late we have no effective controls over building quality. Building high level, multi-storey tat near the WHS will cause us to lose it and with it the distinctiveness of our City.

The fall out of Mayors

The Rotheram/Anderson fall out and the withdrawal of staff from the City Region team is not good enough. We all need to pull together to deal with the problems are facing at any time. But these are not normal times! Brexit is casting a long shadow over the UK as a whole and Liverpool in particular. Working together is not desirable it is essential. To see the two most important leaders in the LCR squabbling and letting Greater Manchester zoom even further ahead of us is a disgrace.

The suggested CPO of the Adelphi

Everyone knows that what should be the best hotel in Liverpool is a city disgrace. I was put into a Britannia Hotel in London recently – when I found out I walked out! But a CPO? As mentioned above these are lengthy and complicated. We also need sound legal reasons for doing it. But then what?  We have been the markets authority running markets in Liverpool for 800 years and still make a mess up of running St John’s. Who seriously out there thinks that the Council with its total lack of business acumen could run anything bigger than a sweet shop!?

What we are seeing throughout the council is bluster and bollocks! Schemes announced that disappear without trace. Schemes announced with no idea about whether the money can be found for them. Leaderless both managerially and politically Liverpool is just about coping but every day makes it more and more difficult. It’s time to clean out the Augean stables folks. Will you come and help us?

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The continuing scandal of Adult Social Care

Together

Me with my Carer!!  Erica and I hope that we have a long, healthy and happy third age but we must all be aware of the problems that we face as longevity increases.

I am attending three events next week looking at adult social care. This is good because it means that adult social care is now firmly on the agenda of many organisation.

Like many I was pleased that adult social care became a prominent feature of the General Election. Again, like many, I was displeased with the way that it became a political football largely because of the crass Tory U-turn on a U-turn within days during the election.

The Government has put an extra £2 billion into the system this year. BUT that money will not be as well or properly spent as it could be. The Government has, three months into the financial year introduced a number of national priorities about how the money should be spent and financial penalties to councils if the money is not used to meet centrally defined targets. Those targets are not always the ones that are most relevant in specific areas. For example, money is currently needed in most council areas to stabilise and support the present system and its providers. This need has largely been ignored by the Government who expect new services for their money.

The injection of an additional £2 billion for social care in the Spring Budget is, of course a step in the right direction. But it is not sufficient to deal with all immediate- and short-term pressures. The LGA estimates that social care faces an annual funding gap of £2.3 billion by 2019/20.

It is now vital that the Government brings forward its proposals for the future of social care as a matter of urgency. Lib Dems believe that cross-party consensus is an essential foundation for the process of developing viable solutions for the long-term.  This is not a problem capable of a quick fix. The demographic changes are long term. More of us will live longer and with more time in ill health. Unless we understand that the system is unsustainable. It’s not only a problem for the elderly. Increasingly, children who would have died at birth or at a very young age are living lives almost long as children born without such difficulties. That surely is a good thing but it comes at a cost. Looking after such people and adults can cost up to £50,000 a year.

The Government’s proposals must not focus solely on funding and mechanisms to bring more resource into the system. As important, we need to consider what type of care and support system we want for the future; this must include exploration of the clear links between care and housing. One of the events I am going to presided over by Baroness Greengross in the House of Lords is a meeting with the trade body for retirement villages. There is clear proof presented by them that if we can organise housing better it impacts well on the health and experiences of the elderly. It also saves a shed load of money because necessary services can be provided cost effectively.

But retirement villages are only one option. There is an urgent need to better provide a range of housing options to meet the wide variety of housing circumstances, aspirations and needs of people – our family, friends and communities – as they age. There is both growing evidence and a clear policy steer towards recognising and strengthening the role of housing in relation to a range of health and wellbeing issues including how well designed housing for older people can help reduce the need for adult social care and  demand on NHS services (e.g. reducing residential care admissions, preventing hospital admissions/reablement, combatting isolation or loneliness, better at home care coordination, a wider community resource, and opportunities for greater personal and community resilience).

Within the diverse mix of different strategies – from building new age friendly homes, to shaping and enabling the market, integrating housing with health and care, and developing new models for adapting and creating smart homes – local leadership and collaboration between local partners is critical throughout.

Whilst it is clear that councils can help enable partnership working to deliver improved outcomes through housing, it is not easily replicated. Local government needs the resources, the tools and, crucially, the buy-in from all health and housing partners, to make it happen.

Outside housing there is much that councils could do to reduce the length of ill health by the positive promotion of good health strategies. The work that we do with our parks; community centres; libraries; bus passes; good eating campaigns; companionship programmes, often done for us by community groups are every bit as important. But these services are increasingly under threat. Council’s budgets have been cut by anything between 25 and 50% by the reduction in central government grant.

Indeed at present we have no idea what our budgets will be in 3 years’ time as the Government has back tracked on its proposal to leave all business rates with local authorities. Most urban authorities with high densities of poverty cannot cope with just the 50% business rate, council tax and service charges. Unless we get clear direction quickly for what will happen after March 2020 we will be unable to properly plan for the delivery of services with long-term contracts. Unless we can give long-term contracts, we will continually have to ‘spot buy’ services which are not as good and more expensive.

So things are not looking good either for the elderly; those moving into that category; or those that provide services to them. It goes without saying that in the Lib Dem view we must try and reach a consensus on these issues and set in place a structure and funding which will stand the test of time.

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The resurgence of Militant in Liverpool

Momentum_logo

The Militant of the 80’s which so badly damaged Liverpool has become the Momentum of the 10’s

As most people know I’ve been around a long time!  I was a Councillor here in the 80’s when the Militant Tendency rose to power. I saw the destruction of the Labour Party and the destruction of the City. I watched as 32,000 people were given redundancy notices. I watched as housing maintenance budgets were stripped to provide new housing whilst existing housing went to wrack and ruin. I watched while the Swiss Banks cleaned up with exorbitant interest rates and the council failed to collect vast amounts of rates from taxpayers.

Of course, as a Liberal then Liberal Democrat I fought them with my colleagues with everything that we could. It took 2 years for the Millies to be got out with a brief period of Liberal Control and a longer period of stolid and unimaginative Labour control. It was only in 1998 when the Lib Dems retook control of the council that we could begin to put right the appalling education problems of the City; pay off the banks and, in the long term more importantly, to change the image for the City and attract inward investment.

For the decades of the 80’s and 90’s there was no inward investment of the city from the private sector and precious little from the public sector as the competence of the Council and the direction of the City were doubted.

And now Militant has returned. Of course, not quite the same people. Many of the people who have joined the new Militant – Momentum – were not born then. But some are the same people with less hair and even less imagination!. I can see old (literally) Millies across the City Region urging on a new generation of their brethren. But young or old the preaching is the same. A false hope that ‘tooth fairy’ economics could link with ideology of the extreme left to create a latter-day Utopia. Regrettably in Liverpool what was created was a modern-day dystopia. That is happening again and will, again, have terrible consequences for our City if it is not stopped.

You might think after all I have read about the present Labour administration that it could not get worse. The way Labour runs Liverpool is a disgrace which more and more people are becoming aware of. It:

  • Lacks transparency and openness
  • Has an unsafe relationship between Officers and Members
  • Does peculiar deals with developers who aren’t quite top notch
  • Has no scrutiny
  • Refuses to bench mark itself against other similar councils
  • Is failing to contribute to the wider actions of councils across the Liverpool City Region
  • Has no due process of scrutiny
  • Is racking up increased borrowing

But if you don’t think things could get worse I certainly do. My latest musings have, of course, been set off by the takeover of Wavertree Constituency by Momentum. I watched the gloomy faces of Liverpool Labour Councillors at the LGA Conference who had been thrown out by an almost complete takeover. 9 out of 10 positions now occupied by Momentum supporters.

The first thing they did was to challenge the local MP. According to the Daily Mirror a statement was issued that she was responsible to them not the electorate of Wavertree. This is, of course, a perversion of parliamentary democracy. Only in totalitarian regimes such as fascism and communism is the rule of the Party of paramount importance. In our democracy Parties exist to get people of like mind elected. Those people are then the servants of the people they represent and not the Party that put them there.

The things that Momentum are proposing are in essence the things that the current Greek Government said BEFORE they got elected. They were going to take on the capitalists, the financiers, refuse to pay back loans, nationalise this and privatise that. Well that’s what they promised but those ideas collapsed within weeks. In the end, the deals that they got were worse and more costly than the deal they could have had. They realised, too late, that there is no tooth fairy and father Christmas who will pay for these things and that to progress there needs to be pragmatic policies not empty slogans.

Having said that Lib Dems agree with many of the objectives of Momentum

  • We believe that owners of businesses have too strong a hand and that there need to be moves towards principles of co-ownership which recognise that there can be no profits without workers.
  • We believe that our society is too materialistic and greedy. People earn vast amounts of money that they cannot possibly need and chuck away on conspicuous consumption whilst others lack the necessities of life.
  • We believe in internationalism although of a type very distinct from theirs
  • We believe that we have to safeguard the planet
  • We believe that everyone has the right in the UK to love in a warm, safe, appropriate home in a safe, clean and green neighbourhood.

Above all we believe that the people of Liverpool need to be given a hope for the future that will not be delivered by the Labour Party which currently controls the council. In some parts of our City there is understandable despair for the future. New ways; new techniques; new employment patterns are leaving behind too many of our young people. The jobs that they could have gone to just a decade ago are disappearing or have already disappeared. The education system in large parts of the City Region is not supporting them or others who have already left the formal education system into good, new reasonably paying jobs.

But the way forward is not y extremism and militancy. It is by setting a long-term future for our City Region. It is by assembling partnerships who support that vision. It is by making our public services fit for purpose and adapted to the new pressures and opportunities. It is about involving the people of Liverpool in taking control of the levers of power and not by concentrating power in the hands of a narrow cadre.

Only the Lib Dems can do that. As I have door knocked around South Liverpool since the General Election it is abundantly clear to me that many people are looking to us to take on incompetent Labour next May. That is what we will do. That is the way forward for Liverpool.

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“Liverpool Liberal Democrats go on the Offensive on three key issues”

St Georges Hall

The threat to Liverpool’s World Heritage Site is just one the three threats to our City’s future that Liverpool’s Lib Dem Councillors want to see discussed at the July Council meeting.

Liverpool’s Liberal Democrat Group have tabled three resolutions that they wish to see considered at the meeting of the Liverpool City Council on Wednesday 19th. July.

Councillor Richard Kemp the Liberal Democrat Leader in Liverpool says, “There are three crises of confidence blowing up in Liverpool on which Liverpool Council will be judged locally, nationally and globally. The partial treatment of the Council’s Chief Executive; the potential loss of our World Heritage Site and the council’s withdrawal from the Liverpool City Region which will damage the futures of all 1.7 million people who live here.

Each of these is damaging in its own right but together there is a tsunami being created which will cause long-standing harm to the City and its people. We only have the right to put down one motion at a meeting of the City Council but because of the urgency of all three issues and the fact that the next council after July is mid-September we are asking for all three matters to be considered at the July meeting.

We are pleased that for two of these items we have been supported by the Liberal Group and hope that the Greens and forward thinking members of the Labour Party will also support them when they come forward either in Council or Select Committee”.

ENDS

 

Full Texts of the motions to the Council


  1.    Equal Treatment of all Employees of the Council

      Cllrs Richard Kemp CBE, Andrew Makinson; Mirna Juarez; Malcolm Kelly; Steve Radford; Kevin Morrison

Council believes that not only is a fundamental tenet of British Law that all people are treated equally in the legal and judicial systems but it also believes that all staff must be treated equally in the council’s disciplinary systems.

Council notes that since 2009 58 employees in PO and SO grades have been suspended without prejudice of which three were suspended because of legal matters outside their immediate work on the Council. It noted that 36 of these subsequently returned to work within the Council.

It notes that 1 employee has been allowed to cease to work on full pay outside the normal system.

It requests the Head of the Paid Service to immediately conduct a review of all staffing procedures to ensure that all staff are treated equally in potential and actual disciplinary matters in order to ensure true fairness in the council’s procedures.

  1.    Liverpool City Region – Working Together

      Cllrs Richard Kemp CBE, Andrew Makinson; Mirna Juarez; Malcolm Kelly; Steve Radford; Kevin Morrison

Council believes that Liverpool and the UK face a period of sustained economic difficulties caused by the run up to and aftermath of BREXIT.

It therefore believes that all politicians of all Parties should be prepared to work together in these troubled times to ensure that the problems caused to the people of the Liverpool City Region  are minimised.

It therefore calls upon the Mayor of Liverpool to retake his place on the City Region Cabinet and to reinstate the staff that he has withdrawn from the City Region’s operations.

  1. UNESCO World Heritage Site

Cllrs Richard Kemp CBE, Andrew Makinson, Mirna Juarez, Malcolm Kelly

Council notes that Liverpool is unique in having the UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of its commercial centre

It notes that the designation:

  1.    Provides a uniqueness to our offer to commerce which distinguishes it from other competing cities;
  2.    Provides an opportunity to drive up architectural standards in the City to preserve its vibrancy and uniqueness for future generation.
  3. Enhances its tourist offer in a highly competitive market.

However it also notes that after repeated warnings this status is under threat because the Council is choosing not to enforce high standards; take note of buffer zone requirements and allow too much development close to the WHS.

Accordingly it requests the Mayor to seek advice from English Heritage; the Merseyside Civic Society; SAVE and the Victorian Society with a view to taking urgent and immediate steps to preserve this vital status.

It also calls for the Local Development Framework which was originally due to be finished by the end of 2011 to be completed and signed off to Government by April 2018 at the latest in order that up to date provisions can be used to inform decisions of the planning committee and the officers that serve it.

 

 

 

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If you think poverty started in 2010 you are part of the problem

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This map from the Office for National Statistics shows that the UK is above mid league in terms of risk of poverty throughout Europe. If we leave the EU and the Single Market we will dream of these days as our standards will inevitably fall.

On Wednesday the Office for National Statistics produced a report on both absolute poverty and persistent poverty in the UK compared to the rest of Europe and beyond. It showed that whilst our Country is by no means the worst country in Europe on these indicators it is by no means the best! That made me think once again about poverty in our Country and the way that successive Governments have tried to deal with it.

In 1999 the then Labour Government published 18 reports which looked at all aspects of poverty and wordlessness and living conditions which had been prepared for them by 18 ‘Professional Action Teams’. Each of the PATs produced a series of recommendations but when the Government brought all those reports together it concluded that the vast majority of the Country’s social and personal economic problems were located within just 3,000 neighbourhoods throughout the UK.

It, quite rightly, never published a list of those neighbourhoods as that would have only made things worse in them. They did, however, begin a series of programmes largely through what were called Single Regeneration Budgets (SRB) areas where not only  were extra funds put in but all the spending of the Government both central and local were coordinated in a more effective and joined up way.

Of course it didn’t work too well. Joining up other people’s budgets was a great idea as long as I didn’t have to put mine in! Spending new money was a great idea, provided it was spent on my pet themes or my department/organisation. Vast numbers of ‘agencies’ grew up to help local voluntary organisations submit bids for funding. I earned a part of my living by helping councils and their partners to effectively involve local people in the decision making through the development of locally led SRB Boards.

The Government view on this was ambiguous even though the SRBs were their own creation. It allocated money nationally for neighbourhood initiatives and in the first year of operation told councils them money could be used instead to fend off big council tax increases. The major spending organisations such as Department of Health and Department of Education never allowed their budgets to be included. Of crucial importance was the fact that DWP allowed no local experimentation in the use of their funds and benefits to be used to meet local opportunities. Often in many of these 3,000 neighbourhoods benefits money was the biggest input into the area.

There was never an evaluation of the SRB and other programmes as a whole but there was an evaluation of many of the individual SRB programmes (there were similar programmes in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales). The ones that I helped evaluate showed few changes in the indices of poverty despite some excellent work done within those areas for up to 7 years. There was a simple reason for that. Many people had received really good training which had enabled them to both get on and then move up the employment ladder. When they did that they used their relative new affluence to escape from that area. Who came to fill the housing? Even more poor people who were right at the top of the difficulty league.

I came to two conclusions from this:

  1. That the problems of these 3,000 neighbourhoods had taken decades to build up and were not going to be put right in 7 years. If we look at Liverpool 8 for example we can see that up to the early 1930s Toxteth was one of the wealthiest areas of the City. The big houses were lived in by the ship, insurance and banking company owners and then when mobility got easier with the widespread use of cars and the opening of the first Mersey Tunnel the right moved out and the poor moved in. Look at Rhyl or almost all Victorian Holiday Towns. When the B & B trade left for Majorca and Benidorm guest house owners were left with lots of small units and no market. Who came in to fill them? The poor as these areas became bed sit, social security land.

 

  1. That micro activity alone was not enough. It needed concerted changes in national policy and spending programmes to change things. Labour and Messrs Brown, Mandelson and Blair thought that by letting the City and Banks run riot there would be the creation of enough tax to sort out the problems of poverty. They refused to allow the spending of money according to local priorities. All the money had to be spent on a complex series of targets dictated by some boy or girl in Whitehall with a first class honours from Oxbridge but not a clue about how the World operated. In fact at one time unitary councils like Liverpool had to report to the Government on 1,100 key indicators some of them on a quarterly basis.

So my guess is that if we could go back to those 3,000 neighbourhoods today 100 will have moved out of the category and a 100 would have moved in to it. Good work done for many individuals but a stasis for the communities as a whole.

Interestingly between 2010 and 2015 there was a movement in which those in the bottom 25% of the population had more disposable wealth and those in the top 25% had less. In other words there was a modest but definite decrease in the gap between rich and poor. But this was not caused by local programmes or changes in the local economy but because the Government kept the top rate of income tax higher than all but 31 days of the 13 years of the [previous labour Government and gradually increased the level at which tax became payable. In other words the big change came from macro policies. Similarly the number of students from working class backgrounds increased between 2010 and 2015 not because the schools had got better (although they had) but because the grants became better so the risk of failure was reduced.

I have five main conclusions about the way to deal with poverty. There are many more and in a blog I can only headline what those solutions are but here goes:

  1. We need to create well-paying and sustainable jobs in our Country. That is why it is so vital that we stay in the EU. If we leave the EU and the Single market our chances of avoiding an austerity which makes today’s look like a teddy bear’s picnic are none-existent. That is why Corbyn and the Labour are so wrong to vote the way that they are in Parliament. Waving a banner and demanding higher corporation tax is not the way forward. All but 54 Labour MPs voted for a huge austerity programme when they entered their coalition with Theresa May over Europe in the Queens Speech.

 

  1. We need to break the power of the gig economy and similar activities which have created low-paid and low skill jobs not because there is necessarily a long-term benefit to the Country by creating them but a short-term profit to companies who massively reduce their tax bills. The problems of today’s low value and cheap economy will haunt this Country for generations to come as the current young people become old without the opportunity to build up capital reserves in pensions or housing.

 

  1. We need to have local decision making about national budgets. Too often councils and other parts of the public sector are spending money not according to local need on locally designed programmes but on national targets applied locally with tight controls about what and how they spend. Councils should have much more control of the spending of public sector resources in their areas.

 

  1. We need to break the Power of Westminster and Whitehall and send real decision making down, if not to the regional assemblies that I would like to see, to the City and County Region Mayors. In a conurbation like Liverpool City Region we could have a great system of working together on what we know to be the priorities with enough money and opportunity to make things fly.

 

  1. Power needs to flow not only from Whitehall to the Town Hall but from the Town Hall to the Communities. Just as Whitehall likes to keep a tight hold on cash so does the Town Hall in far too many cases. Everyone cites the economies produced by large scale activities but ignore the economies that can be created by small-scale and well informed activity.

 

Above all we need to recognise that just as in Toxteth the problems of the Country have been a long time in building up. We cannot however just treat the poor people in poor neighbourhoods as collateral damage whilst we build a new utopia for them over the next 30 years. They need enough money to now to live in dignity.

The aim of our society must surely be that all its citizens live in a decent home that is appropriate to their needs set in a good neighbourhood that is clean, safe and well managed. Is it too much to hope that in a country which is 25th in the world on a GDP per head basis we can everyone a decent and fulfilling job which pays enough for them to live without benefits and enables them to have a couple of weeks holiday with the family every year.

I am setting modest targets here. But the means of achieving them are long term and complex. As the old saying goes, “The longest journey is begun with the first step” but before we set off we need to have a map which gives a destination which is not Utopia but perhaps a decent country to live in for all of us.

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