Baron Anderson takes the stage



Liverpool Town Hall – Home of a democratic deficit

I’ve heard Joe Anderson being called all sorts of names in the past few years but the one that springs to my mind now is Baron Anderson. His astounding ignorance after the signing of the somewhat limited ‘devolution’ deal as the ‘Greatest thing to happen for democracy since Magna Carta’ showed either a limited view of British history or a woefully inadequate view of the limited success of his negotiations with the Government.
What we got was a useful step forward to bring some authority for local actions back to local politicians. It is no more than that and certainly nothing to match the scale of what has been achieved in Manchester. But even if we had got the full Manchester monte from the Government it would still not have been as big as The Great Reform Act; Universal Suffrage for Men; Universal Suffrage for Women; secret ballots; the abolition of rotten boroughs etc; etc; etc.
But Joe’s problem is that he genuinely believes this hyperbolic nonsense and much else besides because there is nowhere in the system that he can be challenged. A Council Leader can be challenged within the controlling group. But not in Liverpool where all jobs depend on the largess of the Mayor. Now more than half the Labour Group get a Special Responsibility Allowance and every single one of them needs Joe’s approval. Money talks in today’s Labour Party.
The people of Liverpool cannot challenge him anywhere because he has no external engagements where he just goes out to streets, neighbourhoods or shopping centres to talk and more importantly listen. Most Mayors have a weekly or fortnightly ‘meet the People’ session to do just that. Most mayors have a “Questions to the Mayor” session fortnightly or monthly where local people; businesses or interest groups can come and ask the Mayor or senior officers any questions. Fat chance of that in Liverpool.
And perhaps an even greater affront in a democracy is that he cannot even be held to account by other elected representatives. He has a section of the Council set aside for him called ‘Mayoral Announcements’. Two council meetings ago that was set aside almost completely for an attack on the Lib Dems regarding his appalling decision to stick the taxpayers of Liverpool with his legal fees. During that he made all sorts of allegations about Erica and I which we were totally unable to question or even to demand the truth be told. No-one can challenge the Mayor in any way on that section of the agenda.
Last year we had two Select Committees that could hold the Mayor to account. One was a Mayoral Select Committee and the other was the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. I stopped going to them because they were poorly chaired and had no work programme. This was partly the fault of the chairs but also the fault of the way that the Mayor and officers responded in the Committees.
Liverpool Council does not compare itself with any other similar council when it comes to performance management. The excuses made were the standard ones when people resist proper scrutiny; the information isn’t there; it would take too much of our time; it would cost too much money. None of these were true and any costs would be well exceeded by the amount of challenge it would put into our system to ensure that we got better results for the things we pay for. The fact is that both officers and politicians are scared of comparison with other cities because we are not doing a very good job in many areas of activity.
So I have tabled the following motion to our Constitutional Issues Committee:
Democratic Deficit in Liverpool
Being concerned at the lack of scrutiny of the Mayor and senior management in Liverpool this Committee:
1. Resolves that after the Mayoral Announcements section of the Council meeting the Mayor should receive and answer questions on that statement from:

Opposition Group Leaders
Any councillor

2. The Chief Executive be instructed to provide a report on the establishment of a bench marking system for Liverpool so that our outputs and outcomes can be compared with other core cities.

3. The Mayoral Select Committee be reconstituted to:

i) Consider in detail any Mayoral announcements made at council
ii) The performance of the Council against other comparable authorities
iii) The Mayoral Pledges made at the preceding election
iv) Resolutions from council members about areas of concern

4. Arrangements be made to hold a monthly one hour session in the Town Hall at which the Mayor would answer questions from any member of the public or local business or organisation wishing to raise issues about the work of the Council or any other body which would impact on the welfare of the people of the City.
I suspect that Baron Anderson and the knights of his Round Table will reject all of these ideas. However, I am equally sure that a Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate will put matters of openness and transparency of this nature at the very heart of a campaign in May.
Will Baron Anderson be standing in this election? Will he stand in May hoping to get elected then try to get elected as the City Region Mayor in May 2017. Would this cause a by-election for the City Mayor in June 2017 or will Joe want two jobs (let’s face it for 2 years he did have two jobs!) Who knows? Only Mystic Meg and Baron Anderson have the answers to these very interesting questions.

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A weak deal which is not devolution but is the only deal in town

Liver Bird

Hopefully the Liver Bird with be the emblem of our new ‘Devolved’ Authority

So the Liverpool City Region deal has finely blown in to town. Not a full blooded gale like the one that is currently taking place outside my window but more of a light summer breeze. It just about rustles the trees but really makes little impact.
Having said that Lib Dems from across the City Region will support the deal in our Council Chambers on Thursday. It is the only game in town. Not to accept it would eb foolhardy. It would mean that we would fall even further behind the Manchester City Region.
Looking at the deal in full there are four main problems with it:
One is that this is not really a devolution deal at all. This is the Government’s fault. The fact is that unless any region is given full tax raising and tax altering powers it is delegation and not devolution. This is hardly a surprising position as this Government like every Government in the past 40 years really wants to run the commanding heights of the Country from their Whitehall bunkers.
Secondly it does not remove the ludicrous position of Police and Crime Commissioners as is happening elsewhere. This is largely because of a technicality. In Manchester for example all 10 councils fall within the area of the Greater Merseyside Police Force. In the Liverpool City Region Halton is police by the Cheshire Force.
Thirdly it does not include the National Health Service. I understand from the media that this is because some of the Labour leaders did not want it. They are content to wait to see what happens in Manchester where a much greater control of the Health Service will be exercised. The social care and health services are reaching breaking point. Unless we do things differently they will break. Effective decsiions to chgange things can only be made at a local level where health and social care actions alongside the other neccessary public services can be joined together into one smooth system of care.
Lastly, one of the powers is really a fiction. I am a great believer in bus regulation. We have a fragmented service with huge competition on everything but price on the main routes but few services elsewhere unless they are heavily subsidised. However the North-East Combined Authority is moving away from using this power because of the large amount of compensation that will need to be paid to existing bus operators (although they would be the ones who would tender for the new regulated services!)
I am not surprised at this weak position. Liverpool CR is effectively at least 3 years behind Manchester CR. Throughout the past 4 years since the Government have made their position on ‘devolution’ clear and they have consistently outperformed their Liverpool colleagues. Although coming from different political parties (as distinct to our one party state). They have developed a clear and compelling vision for the conurbation based on a clear analysis. That vision has been effectively debated across the councils and communities. It has then been conveyed to the Government.
Alongside has been a clear understanding of how the new powers will need to be blended with the old powers. They have also developed a framework which provides clear accountability for functions across the region to be exercised both by politicians and officers.
In the case of Liverpool the bid that was put forward was dreadful. I have discussed this in more detail elsewhere but it really was just a whinge list. Instead of strong leadership we had a public and private bickering between the 6 Leaders and a decision to proceed which was taken only two weeks before the deadline and the bid document, such as it was, was only finalised two days before the deadline.
So this deal will not give us much more power or much more cash. However I believe that the existence of a new conurbation wide body accompanied by a Mayor (which was unnecessary) will have a lot more influence provided we do the right things. I believe that if we too develop a compelling vision for our conurbation a new authority will be able to pull together a wider variety of functions than our powers strictly allow. That sense of working together and sharing the same joint aspirations will enable us to sue that influence to make better use of the money and other resources that are available in our normal budgets and the budgets of our partners.
So two questions come up:
1. How do we create that compelling vision based on hard facts? I do not believe that politically or managerially within our councils and other public bodies there is s capacity for this so we need help. I am writing today to the Vice Chancellors of the 4 Liverpool Universities asking them to combine some of their work in research and development into a city-region centre for excellence. This would be a body which would seek out the best of what is happening around the world and help us translate this into hard actions and priorities within the City Region. Some of this goes on, notably within the Heseltine Institute, but it is nowhere near enough and there is little sign of an effective translation of ideas into practice.

2. How do we work together more effectively? Well a simplistic response would be simply to ask the 6 Leaders to grow up!! It is clear that personalities have had far too much place in the discussion to date. Legally there is no doubt that Labour is in charge and they have a democratic right to adopt that role. However things would be immensely improved if a Lib Dem and Tory were put on the Combined Authority Board with speaking but not voting rights. Having none-Labour councillors present and able to contribute would only help the level of debate and I would say exactly the same if it was 6 Lib Dem Leaders. Governance is strengthened when opposing ideas are properly put forward within a decision making process.

So today was not a backward step for Liverpool but a forward step rather than forward stride! It takes us a little way down the line towards the Lib Dem belief of a devolving state with local decisions being made locally. Crucially we now need to make what we’ve got work. All politicians and relevant organisations must not settle their differences and work together for the common good. We must make what we have been given today work. I will certainly do my best in this regard.

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Liverpool stands side by side with the people of Paris


The Tricolour is the flag for all of us today

Yesterday I was proud but sad to attend a vigil for the dead of Paris outside Lime Street Station. The vigil had been called at very short notice by some your French people who now live in Liverpool. Some are studying and some are post studies but have decided that Liverpool is the place that they want to live, at least in the short term.
Although there was very little notice almost 100 people gathered and stood in silence to show our respect for those whose lives had been taken. Half were French and half were Scousers. We then went across the road to the Poppy display at St George’s Hall. It was a magnificent back drop to our second vigil. As I was the only councillor there I was asked by the organisers to say a few words on behalf of the city. I reminded those listening that there could not be a better back drop.
The poppy the symbol of resurrection on Flanders Fields. A vivid reminder that the UK and France have stood together for the last 200 years against horror and tyranny. We have done so on the soil of Europe but have done so wherever joint action has been required. We are as one when it comes to issues such as these. A joint European initiative in which we support our fellow Europeans as required.
I reminded people that only the previous weekend our Cenotaph was the scene of the biggest commemoration of the fallen dead outside London. We remembered not only the British and French who had died but all who died. On Flanders Fields people from more than 100 countries died. Many of them not Christian. Many of them Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims who had come to fight side by side with the people, who, at that time, were their colonial masters.
I closed the vigil with the words that had been spoken the week before:

“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old
Sage shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them”.

That was the tone not only of the vigil and the people of Liverpool who joined in but has generally been the theme of reconciliation and respect that have typified the world wide response. The people that committed such atrocities were not Muslims following the words of the Koran or their prophet. They had distorted the words to such an extent that they became a caricature of the Muslim faith. They not only struck against the West with their actions but struck a huge blow against their own religion.
I know hundreds of Muslims and have lived for 3 years in a Muslim Country. I know of no Muslim who believes anything that remotely resembles the filth that lives in the minds of these fanatics. Like all other peoples the Muslim faith has its share of people who behave badly. BUT no more and no less than those of any other faith or creed.
Because I was the only councillor there I did a number of press interviews not only about the massacres but also the wider context of what is happening in the Middle East.
I am not an expert in these matters but two things occur to me.
Firstly, military action is not the answer. It may be necessary in the short-term especially when dealing with people like ISIL. I lost no sleep over the death of Jihadi John. I would have preferred for him to be captured, tried and imprisoned after a trial that brought out the facts. However, I live in the real world and that was never going to happen. In which case we need to protect ourselves from his like. We know from Iraq and Libya that getting rid of a despotic system or despot is not the end of a problem. It often leads to even worse difficulties than before. That leads to the second point;
Secondly, the only way to change things is to change hearts of minds. It seems to me highly unlikely that a white man like me with a none faith background can change the hearts of ISIL members. The people who can are the moderate members of the same faith who can out quote these people on the Koran and its interpretation. We need to find a way to engage far more moderate Muslims in the figurative fight against the extremists.
Perhaps there is a third thing that we can do. That is to be more consistent when we meet people who faith is extreme. I find much of the Saudi Arabian version of faith quite repugnant. Floggings, beheadings, restricted rights for women cannot be considered acceptable because that State has lots of money. We must be consistently clear about our own values and promote them in our daily lives.
But these things are for the medium to long term. Next month I will be spending 4 days in Paris at a UCLG meeting of 1,000 local and regional government leaders from around the World. There wasn’t a minute’s consideration of the idea that we might cancel because of what happened. That would be to give in – to surrender to the fanatics. Instead we will meet to discuss a range of issues including what we as local politicians can do in the Middle East which I visited in the summer.
We stand with people of good faith and good views wherever in the World they live. But today we especially stand alongside our neighbours and European friends in France as they repair the heart of their great city – Paris.

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Why a trip to Oldham will help you make friends for life!


Cllr Jane Brophy – A great Candidiate for OldhamWest & Royton

On Friday I spent the afternoon with a colleague from Liverpool, Kris Brown, at the Oldham by-election. I am going again for most of tomorrow and will be there all day on 21st November.
For those who are new to the Party a Parliamentary by-election might be a strange experience. But it’s one that you will enjoy. To be blunt it’s occasionally quite lonely being a Lib Dem or indeed a member of any political party. You trudge through the rain to do things sometimes by yourself sometimes with others but you feel quite isolated.
That is not what will happen in Oldham. Our Party is running a major campaign in this election – the first really since Eastleigh. When I went there I spent precisely 3 minutes in the HQ. I hadn’t gone there to chat I had gone there to work. The excellent staff turned us round quickly with 3 bundles of leaflets and some hillsides to climb to deliver them in! But in even in that brief period I met 6 people I know well – some of whom I have known for decades.
Even as Kris and I trudged out we were hugely aware that we were part of a national party coming together to deliver a result. We saw another delivery team on an adjacent patch. We got up the nose of 4 Labour deliverers who thought they had a divine right to rule. We knew that inside the HQ other people were hitting the telephone canvass lines. That yet further people were preparing the next leaflet; send out telephone canvassing instruction, preparing for the next day. We knew we were contributing to and playing our part in an event which is important for our Lib Dem family.
On 21st November Daisy Benson is arranging gathering of new and newish members to come to the by-election. A few people like me will be around on that day to take you out and work with you so you are not left alone and isolated. I just want to give you 4 reasons why you should join us on that or other days:
1. I am doing it because we have a first class candidate. As a flag bearer for our Party we could not have chosen better than Jane Brophy. She is skilled, articulate and experienced. And on top of those virtues she is a SHE!
2. I am doing it for two leaders. I went out in the rain on Friday in memory of Charles Kennedy a great leader who was a source of great inspiration to me. I will go tomorrow for Tim Farron. We have in him a young leader who deserves to do well in his first by-election. He showed the commitment to going yesterday when others might not have done.
3. I am doing it because we need to hammer home the differences between us and the other Parties. The Tory viciousness; the tory-lite behaviour of the Parliamentary Labour Party and the disgusting nature of UKIP
4. I am doing it because it really matters. We had a dismal run of by-elections in the last Parliament. Now even a modest upturn in our vote will show that those days are over. The big beasts of Parliamentary journalism such as Michael white and Michael Crick will notice what our Party is doing – or even worse – not doing. A good result will put a spring in the step of every Party member as they do their local work.
So come any day if you can but try and make a special effort to come on 21st with Daisy and I. If you cannot come do some telephone canvassing. Someone in your local party will show you how if you have not done it before. If you can’t do these things bung a few bob in the appeal which I am sure will be winging its way to you.
Be sure that this is a by-election that the Party is taking very seriously. If you are a new member come along to reinvigorate old hacks like; put a spring in our step and gladden our heart as we remember of first parliamentary by-elections as newbies (mine was in 1969) but above all come and have fun and satisfaction with other members of your new family.

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And now the Council wants to commercialise Heron Eccles Playing Fields

Heron Eccles

The Heron Eccles Playing Fields which could be commercialised

I have been forced to write to Football Association Chair, Greg Dyke to try and find what the council and FA are proposing to do in my ward.

Let em explain, “We found out by chance that the Merseyside Youth Association is being forced to leave the Heron Eccles Playing Ground in mid-April bringing chaos to the leagues that they run on the site which will have to close early. The justification for this is that the FA will create some sort of commercial sports development there which will require floodlights until 10 p.m. and 7 day a week use. Not only is this unsuitable but I am worried that the commercialisation of the site will affect the ability of the children’s leagues to pay for the pitches for their true community use.”

My colleague, Andrew Makinson, explains that the playing field is already creating traffic and parking difficulties because it lies in a closely developed urban area (in Abbotshey Avenue, Liverpool 18) which is entered by three dangerous junctions at Maher Avenue, Rose Lane and Booker Avenue. “The thought that there will be floodlights which will affect more than 300 houses and that these roads and junctions will have a massively increased use fills me with horror. I hope that the Mayor of Liverpool will come and see this before he presses ahead with this dangerous idea. ”.

I have asked for a meeting with the local FA and the council but have been stonewalled with the claim that there are only discussion taking place and there are no firm plans but I find this hard to believe when the MYA have been given early notice and staff have been warned of redundancy. I am hoping that Greg Dyke, as head of the FA will be able to help us shine a light on the dark corners of this ill thought interaction between the FA and Liverpool City Council”.

The full letter to Greg Dyke is attached.

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,
Church Ward Liberal Democrats
16, Dovedale Road,
Liverpool L18 1DW
07885 626913

Greg Dyke,
Chair Football Association,
Wembley Stadium
PO Box 1966

3rd November 2015

Dear Mr Dyke,

Re: Heron Eccles Playing Field, Liverpool 18

I am writing to you about a subject about which I am sure you have no knowledge but in an attempt to bring you up to date with an action of the local FA which might potentially have ruinous consequences for part of the community that I represent on the Liverpool City Council.

In short the Merseyside Youth Association have had the occupation of the use of the above Playing Field terminated in order that it can be used commercially for football and sports events by the FA.

I have endeavoured to get the FA to tell me what their proposals are but have had no success. The claim being that there are only discussion taking place. I find this difficult to believe as the council have confirmed that the MYA have been given instructions to leave the land in mid-April which will mean the early termination of the footballs leagues and training that take place there. I have asked your regional development officer to have a site meeting with my colleagues and I and to attend a public meeting at which there could be a full explanation to residents of the proposals I have no response to this.

In short we have no problem with the idea of more activity taking place at the playing fields. We have often wondered why it is rarely used during school holidays for example. But the question is of the degree of extra use and commercialisation that this land can take.

Heron Eccles is contained within a series of very tight knit streets where we already experience horrendous traffic and parking problems. To get to the site you have to access via three difficult junctions at Booker Avenue/Greenhill Road; Pitville Avenue/Rose Lane or Storrsdsale Road/Mather Avenue. There have been serious accidents at two of these junctions in the past few weeks both of which were connected with existing football traffic.

Lastly, we understand that the FA will want to use the Fields until 10 at night using floodlights. If you were to look at the Fields on Google Earth you would see how much this would impact on the surrounding neighbourhood.

We are sure that you will agree with so that the FA should work closely with local residents when it comes to putting forward proposals which will radically affect their lives. That is why we are surprised that locally the FA has been doing things to date without keeping councillors and residents informed and are so far not taking up our offer for meaningful dialogue and meetings.
I hope that because of this letter you will feel able to intercede on our behalf. If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE
Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

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Come and watch the Labour Party congratulating themselves on the destruction of our green spaces!

japanese-gardenA view of the Japanese Garden in Calderstones Park

As regular readers of my blog know I am highly sceptical of the value of council meetings where rational debates are few and far between and we spend a lot of time talking about things that we cannot control.
Nowhere is that more obvious than in the motion tabled below which the Mayor of Liverpool is moving at the Council meeting to be held at 5 pm on 11th November at Liverpool Town Hall.
Unbelievably the motion from the Mayor invites us to “Welcome the Mayor’s initiative to ‘free up’ the land on Harthill Road”. It ends with these chilling words, “Council urges Cabinet to continue to seek new and imaginative ways to help sustain our City and organisations within it.” Mayor Anderson flogging off the City’s assets is nothing new. You are simply following the example of what Militant did in the 80s – no wonder Derek Hatton is back as a member of His and Jeremy Corbyn’s new Labour Party.
This motion is wrong on so many counts not least it does not have an understanding of what local residents mean by Calderstones Park. We mean all the Calderstones and Harthill estates both of which is used by the community but only some of which is ‘public open space.
Motion from the Mayor of Liverpool

This Council welcomes:

· the initiative shown by the Mayor to free up the land on Harthill Road currently occupied by Beechley Stables, Calder Kids and the Miniature Railway to support a housing development scheme on the combined site that will fund new facilities for two of the organisations.

· The Mayor’s clarification that Liverpool City Council is not selling any part of Calderstones Park.

Council notes:

· The three sites sit outside of Calderstones Park and were not available to the public without authorisation.

· New housing built in the city has directly resulted in an additional £3m a year of Council Tax revenue, which can be spent on crucial services.

· The scheme will allow the capital receipt from the sale to provide and pay for much needed premises and development for all three facilities on sites they are happy with. Both, Calder kids and Beechley Stables are desperate for modern facilities and investment to provide support to children with disabilities and are delighted with the proposals as a way of securing their future.

· the 58% funding cut to government grant imposed on the council by the previous Lib-Dem Tory Government, and the painful impact this cut means to both services delivered by the council and organisations and charities across the City, supported by the council.

Council urges Cabinet to continue to seek new and imaginative ways to help sustain our City and organisations within it”.
We will seek to move something like the following amendment to this motion which we hope will be supported by the other opposition parties:
Amendment by Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

“Council believes that all public open space owned by the council such as Sefton Park Meadowlands and Walton Hall Park and all land owned by the council which has habitually been used by the community for sport and recreation such as the Harthill Estate of Calderstones Park and the former MANWEB playing fields in Childwall/Wavertree should be permanently kept for public use.

It notes that it is the stated wish of the council to grow the population of the City and if this is to be achieved a green city is one of the major ways of achieving this.

It believes that true innovation about our green spaces is not flogging them off to developers but finding ways in which we can involve a wide variety of groups in running green spaces to increase the income from them and increase the use of them”.

My amendment will give the chance for Labour councillors from Fazakerley, Warbreck, County, Wavertree, Childwall, Church, Allerton & Hunts Cross, Woolton, Mossley Hill and Greenbank wards to stand out from the Mayor’s wishes and put the people of their wards before the interests of the Labour Party. Indeed it will give a chance for any Labour Councillor to stand up for the green issues which affect their ward.
But I am not betting the house on it. Labour councillors in Liverpool do what they are told. As Gilbert & Sullivan remarked so acutely 100+ years ago, “they always vote at their Party’s call – they never think of thinking for themselves at all!
There is no doubt that the sale of our green spaces is bitterly resented by the people of the areas that surround them. We know that the council has severe financial difficulties – difficulties that would have occurred no matter which parties were in government after 2010. If you doubt that just look at the way in which the Party has spilt over the issue of tax credits with leading members of Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband’s team abstaining when the Tories bring in devastating cuts which the Lib Dems prevented in Government and unanimously opposed in the past few months.
I hope that as many of you as possible will come and listen to the debate to make your own mind up about the issues and who is fighting for your communities. But don’t worry if you cannot come. We will be recording this debate and ensuring that people have access to it through YouTube.

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The joys of being a Liverpool Councillor

Penny lane JinanPenny Lane Kumamoto

        Visitors to Penny Lane from Jinan (China) and Kumamoto (Japan)

I strongly suspect that I would have become a Lib Dem councillor wherever I had chosen to live. Whether I would have stuck it for 32 years (and counting) is another matter.
There’s something about being a councillor in Liverpool which to me is very, very special and this has been brought home to me over the past few days when I have brought delegations to he City from China and Japan. These have come about because of my work as the International Spokesperson for UK local government.
I realised how good my job was when I saw my City through their eyes. They had of course come to look at government delivery topics. The Chinese delegation from Jinan Province were looking at how we deliver help to small and medium enterprises. The Japanese delegation from the city of Kumamoto and was looking at the way Liverpool promotes its tourism and culture agenda and how that leads into the creation of real and sustainable jobs. It was a particular pleasure to welcome the Kumamoto Mayor as I visited their city last year as part of a speaking and study tour arranged by the Japanese LGA. At one stage they got me to go into a hot thermal spring bath with no clothes on. That’s another story and I absolutely promise – NO PICTURES!
Both delegations had left some time for seeing the city more generally. In particular the Kumamoto delegation wanted to look at some of the cultural buildings as they possess some quality buildings of their own including the finest castle in Japan!
Some things they wanted to do differently. I was struck for example by the way that the Chinese delegation wanted to go to a Chinese restaurant. They arranged this themselves and the restaurant had prepared authentic Chinese food which was only marginally like the food westerners eat in the same restaurant. It was delicious. The Japanese however when I gave them a choice of a posh restaurant in town or the Dover on Penny Lane chose the pub with just a millisecond of thought. This is so often true with people wanting a Liverpool experience rather than going to a restaurant they could visit in their own country. The Dovey does well out of my foreign visitors!
But in all cases I was able to give them a huge choice of first class restaurants. Even near Penny Lane we could have walked to about 20 restaurants with cuisine form about 10 countries. This is a huge range of choice from people of both countries where external food opportunities are small and often only available in the biggest cities.
They all loved Penny Lane. As I know from my international work everyone knows Penny Lane. I joined them to have their pictures taken near one of our street signs. This took some time as they all wanted to be on the picture using their phone! In both cases one of the team found the eponymous song on their i-phone and listed to is as we meandered up the street.
Funnily however, it was my house that they were most interested in. I have often wondered what the inside of peoples homes look like when I go to other countries so I asked them if they would like to look at my home as we were in the area. Embarrassingly both delegations thought my home (which is only a terraced house) was huge by comparison to their own. The Japanese thought my home was beautiful and the Chinese could not believe that only two people live in it! Fortunately it was very tidy as Erica is away!!
But above all it was the scale of the buildings that amazed them. Listening to the Wow and seeing their faces as they went into the Anglican Cathedral. Wandering into the Albert Dock and seeing their surprise at how we keep and renovate old buildings rather than demolishing them. Their pleasure at seeing the refurbished Philharmonic and understanding how important the Concert Hall and its Orchestra are to the image of Liverpool. And of course they all really loved the Town Hall. The splendour of the Council Chamber where the Mayor of Kumamoto sat in the Lord Mayor’s Chair and decided he wanted a Town Hall just like it! The interest they had in our ways of Government both locally and nationally and the reflections that they had about how they would do some things differently as a result of their visit just made me very enthusiastic about their visits and made me vow to redouble my efforts to bring people here.
Too often we Scousers take our City for granted. We go past buildings every day which are of world quality. We have orchestras and museums which are of world quality. We put on events which are of World quality. And often we don’t even notice that they are there.
Of course Liverpool is a city with many social and economic problems which must be tackled. But one of the ways of tackling them is by improving our cultural offer to make more people want to live, work and visit here. We know that a good quality of life is one of the major determinants for students coming here (worth about £15,000 per year each) and businesses relocating here.
We know however that culture is not and should not be just for a moneyed elite. I heard yesterday about the work that the Philharmonic does in the community and know how many Liverpool people visit the Liverpool Museums and galleries every year.
Why would anyone want to be a councillor or live anywhere else? We are a worldwide known city which could be one of the greatest cities in the World. But we are a City without vision or direction. We stumble from one idea to another with no long term plan to take our city to the very top.
If we all got together there is nothing to stop Liverpool becoming great. All that stops us is small minds and petty politicking. The people of Liverpool must demand better of those of us that run their City on their behalf.

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