Telling the truth about green spaces in Liverpool

In November Labour moved a fatuous amendment to a Lib Dem motion to try and convince people (even themselves) that they were not voting for the development of Calderstones Park. They were!

I suppose after 36 years as a Liverpool Councillor nothing should surprise me about the way some people make wild claims about their track record on green spaces. Most of them are experienced councillors and they know that the way they have voted time after time and year after year is on record. How I voted and how they voted can always be seen because the meetings of the Council are held in public and so are the minutes of those meetings. You can find them under the Council meetings section of the Council’s website at www.liverpool.gov.uk.

But now I can see Labour Councillors from South and Central Liverpool telling us in tweets and other social media that they are green campaigners. They even turned up with banners lately at a ‘Save Allerton Priory’ event. That might be what they say now as Joe’s empire is falling apart but its not what any of them said since 2013 when the green spaces row started in the Council Chamber.

So, let’s be clear how they voted. On 7 occasions the Labour Party has voted unanimously against motions about green spaces and especially Calderstones when the Lib Dems supported by the Greens have put to council.

On 6 occasions they voted on motions from us. They started in 2013 at an Extraordinary Council meeting that we called. As usually happened, they moved an amendment on that occasion parroting dubious figures that there is actually more parkland in Liverpool under Labour than before. I’ll return to this later. When it came to the crunch; they pushed through their amendment which totally frustrated our efforts to save Sefton Park Meadowlands; Calderstones Park; Walton Hall Park and other sites from Redrow’s bulldozers.

In some ways the most memorable of debates was when The Mayor of Liverpool actually moved a motion congratulating himself on the great deal he had produced in selling of the Harthill section of Calderstones Park to Redrow. Labour councillors fell over themselves in brown-nosing Joe’s motion and voting against our amendment.

The last time that we debated it was at another extraordinary meeting just last November. We moved that the Council should drop its opposition to the Judicial Review and save £100,000 and start working with the miniature railway and Beechley about long leases which would enable them to attract investment. We moved this after the Mayor had already met the chair of Beechley RDA and told him that Beechley would not have to move if they did not want to.

Again, Labour moved a fatuous amendment to neuter our clear call to proceed with the retention of the Harthill estate for green and community uses. They claimed that we should not be doing this in advance of the JR because it might prejudice the council’s case. Of course, this was nonsense. If that had been the case we would not have been allowed to move the motion and a phalanx of officers stood by to step in should we stray from a strict legal path.

If you don’t believe me have a look at the records. Even better go and talk to the green campaigners from Walton Hall Park; Sefton Meadowlands and Calderstones Park who sat through most, if not all, of these meetings.

Labour’s record is atrocious on both green and building heritage issues. For 8 years they claimed that World Heritage Status is “just a plaque on the wall of the Town Hall.” It was only when we were in the last chance saloon with UNESCO that Labour relented, largely due to public pressure, and took action to stop developments that would have imperilled the status.

If we look at their claim about there being 43 more acres of parkland than they inherited we can see that it is bogus. The 43 acres are all situated around regeneration areas and were a necessary part of the tidying up which always takes place at the end of such schemes. 20 acres, almost half the total is actually land in Alt Valley which has been tidied up to await further development initiatives and where it is hoped that buildings will replace the temporary greenery.

“Ah”, say Labour campaigners, “We got two constituency Labour Parties, Wavertree and Riverside to vote against the Calderstones Park proposals”. That’s true but so what? The only votes that count are those in the Council Chamber. Even after their own Constituency Parties condemned the Calderstones proposals every single Labour councillor present in November voted against the Lib Dem motion.

I am prepared to be judged on my record. You might not like how I vote but I can and do always defend what I have said and voted for in the Council chamber and have never tried to pretend that I have voted one way in the Council but tell people outside that I voted a different way.

My Lib Dem colleagues and I are consistent. One of the major motivators for us being in our Party are our environmental concerns which we work out locally, nationally and internationally.

Saying one thing and doing another is dodgy politics. People actually respect you more if you are honest and explain why you didn’t vote the way they wanted you to. They know that we have to make difficult decisions and cannot please all the people all of the time.

So, if you live in Church or Allerton/Hunts Cross or Woolton or Childwall or Cressington or Wavertree or Mossley Hill Wards challenge all your councillors and candidates about not just what they say about the environment but how they have voted on environmental issues. Our Lib Dem candidates have a proud track record to build whilst others have a more dodgy past!

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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