The only two real contenders for the Liverpool Mayoralty in May.
Like most full council meetings yesterday’s achieved very little. A load of political diatribe and waffle and pointless political posturing. There was one very interesting motion about the National Curriculum where we all agreed that there were major problems with it and that teachers were constrained by the NC from teaching things that were relevant to the own situation or communities. In the end the Labour resolution was supported after an acceptance of an amendment by Erica.
We also agreed that new and innovative ways of providing services in Liverpool were needed in the face of the cuts that are still to come. Involving partners in looking for new solutions is self-evident and all councillors should participate in this. We supported the main motion on this issue although there was a lot of nonsense talked about the cuts. If only we had all the £300 million to spend that the Government have taken from us. I agree but Labour always ignore the fact that a continuing Brown Government would have made major cuts to our budget. At least 80% of the cuts made would have been made anyway. What we are getting now is very different. These cuts are being done to deliberately destroy the public sector – not to deal with a financial crisis.
But there were three debates in which a clear orange line divided what the Mayor thinks and the way he behaves from the way I would as Mayor of our City.
Firstly, we had a debate on the Elected Mayoralty. I moved that we abolished the position of elected mayor as soon as we are allowed to (which is actually next year). I also moved that it be replaced with a Committee system in which the Leader would be the Chair of the Finance and Policy Committee. I wanted the review of this to start now so that we could involve the people of Liverpool in the decision making process. This was thrown out with contempt. “The administration (the Labour Group) will decide if we abolish the position of Mayor”, said Joe
I believe that this City does not belong to the controlling party or indeed the Council. I believe it belongs to the people of Liverpool.
Secondly, Joe’s legal expenses and salary were the subject of questions from the Green Party. They asked for the legal opinion in connection with his failed attempt to make Chesterfield School continue to pay him for no work. He refused to give it although the report was paid for by the people of Liverpool. He was also asked why he took all his allowance and has done since it was awarded although he claimed at the time the Mayoral allowance was set that he would not take it all. His response was simply that he had not set the allowance! I have no problem with the idea of the Mayor being paid for his work. He has to pay his bills like the rest of us. But I believe that the allowance he claims is over the top even if the independent review body says otherwise.
I would not take the full allowance of c£80,000 but would take half that. When I say I won’t take the full amount available I actually mean it!
Thirdly I moved an amendment to a Labour motion which congratulated themselves on their work with listed buildings. I did not disagree that some good work had been done, indeed I congratulated them, on it. My amendment, however, repeated Lib Dem concerns that the none-existent Liverpool Waters plan, where not a brick has been laid in 3 years was damaging our UNESCO World Heritage status. I also voiced concern at the many appalling buildings that we have allowed to be built in the City. I suggested that we deal with that by making a representative of the Civic Society an advisory member of the planning committee to advise us on such issues.
This really annoyed the Mayor. He accused Dr Peter Brown of the MCS of being one of my cronies and always talking the City down. I have known Dr Brown for many years, have spoken to him perhaps 20 times in those years and last saw him in about March last year. I have no idea how he votes and have never asked him. I respect his viewpoint although I don’t always agree with it. He is in no way a crony.
I would treat all the people of Liverpool with respect. I believe that the City will only thrive if we are all involved in it. Where there is clear expertise as there is in the case of the Civic Society that expertise should always be respected even if it cannot always be acted upon.
Lastly, something that was in the Financial Times last week. There was a big spread about the Mayor and Liverpool. Quite naturally they asked me as his principal opponent for my opinion of what was happening. My view was different from his. His comment to the FT was, “If he farts people take notice!” Apart from the obvious comment that he should ask why people do take notice of me I have to ask him, “is this the type of language that should be used by the Mayor of anywhere in conversation with a highly influential newspaper?”
I will always be careful in the way I talk to the media and will portray myself and my city as a place of logical and respectful debate not the boozy debate at the bar of a pub in a Liverpool side street.
The battle lines will get even clearer as we move closer to the Mayoral election in May. People will be able to decide for themselves what sort of Mayor and what sort of City they believe. I want a transparent, forward thinking, engaged city. Not – definitely not – the sort of laughing stock city that Mayor Anderson is making us become.