This afternoon I was gearing up to do a blog about the travels that I will shortly be undertaking as part of my work representing UK local government at an international level. Coincidentally, I received an e-mail from the Local Government Association which outlined my expenses for them for the past 14 months. They were letting me have it at the same time that they replied to a query about them from Liverpool City Council which I can only assume came from the Labour Party therein.
Regular readers of my blog know that for the past 8 years I have represented UK local government in a range of international forums. I always tell people when I am going places and am totally unashamed of what I do. Although none of this is paid for by the Liverpool taxpayer I am frequently able to use the speech making opportunities that I have to extol the virtues of my home city and to encourage people to visit us.
Ironically one of the meetings that fall within this expenses period was to Barcelona where I represented the LGA at a meeting about the Global Leaders’ Summit which was held in Liverpool in June 2014. 90% of the foreign visitors to the Global Leadership Summit came as part of the UCLG Executive Bureau meeting which I arranged to come here. It would have fallen flat and probably would not have taken place if I had not intervened.
In the autumn I made three long-haul trips to Japan, China and New York where I spoke at a major UN meeting. Only one of these appears in the LGA accounts because in one case my expenses were paid by the UN and in another by the Japanese LGA. In China I was the only UK representative and played a major part on behalf of our Country in a number of debates.
In the next 5 weeks I will be visiting 5 different Countries and speaking at events in all of them:
- In Washington I will speak, amongst other organisations, to the American League of Mayors and the World Bank.
- In Brussels I will coordinate a series of meetings which look at how EU aid will be spent in Africa and Latin America.
- In the Isle of Man I will speak at the Executive of the Isle of Man Municipal Association
- In Lille I will speak at a meeting of the Anglo/French Chamber of Commerce.
- In Barcelona I will be spending two days at a private meeting with the Mayors of some of the biggest cities in the World and representatives of the 7 international LGAs.
Liverpool tax payers will pay my expenses for none of these. UK taxpayers will only pay my expenses for one of them. In all cases I will travel economy and stay at whatever hotels (usually at a Premier Inn sort of level) that I am booked into by the host organisation. In all cases I will be able to talk up our City and promote it to a wide variety of audiences.
I believe that every major city should have at least one person committed to international work. Liverpool is an international city. Its companies trade with every region of the World. It has diaspora communities here from more than 100 of the World’s countries. Its Port trades with the world on behalf not only of the UK but the whole of Western Europe. Big, progressive cities need to think big and internationally. That is why when the Liberal Democrats controlled the City we had the target, which we achieved through the Capital of Culture, of becoming a major European city. That is why the Government supported Liverpool in running the International Festival of Business on behalf of the whole Country in 2014 and will do so again in 2016.
So whilst I go abroad to talk our City up the small minds of Labour are looking at ways to talk me down. Any other City leadership of any political party would welcome the part that a member for their council could play at no expense on their behalf. In Liverpool I am opposed at every turn. I don’t know why this is – perhaps you would like to ask the Elected Mayor!?
Last time I stood for election Labour in Liverpool worked with a national right wing newspaper to get my LGA expenses published. They were reasonable but were presented by the paper in a quite sleazy way which Labour then reproduced. They did so on the eve of poll when, of course, I could not reply to them. So electors of Church Ward beware. I will be fighting the election on real local issues and the things which concern you – Labour, who are desperate to get me off the council, are likely to be campaigning from the gutter.
If anyone does want to see what my international expenses were for this period please do not hesitate to ask me and I will send you a copy of the e-mail that I have recived from the LGA