Politicians like to talk big. A £ billion here and £2 billion there. Let’s change this law, lets amend that law. All, of course, important stuff and much needs to be done at the national or macro level.
But that means we often overlook the blindingly obvious. It can be the little things that count in life. Our communities are not made up of laws and politicians. They are glued together by local people, local facilities, local schools, local actions and of course, local pubs! All politics is local. It might be discussed at the UN, or the EU or Parliament or Town Halls but it all gets delivered in streets, neighbourhoods and communities.
That’s why in this election as through the rest of my political career I have been a ‘bottom-up’ politician. I believe that politicians of all Parties should spend more time in their communities and learn the lessons from what they see there. How can any of us speak in the Town Hall or Parliament or elsewhere when they don’t listen to the people who elect them and whose experience is huge?
I thought this 5 years ago when I was one of the 25 local politicians from around the world on the High-Level Task Group which negotiated the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which the UN and every member Country signed up to and has tried to implement since 2015. Those goals have to be interpreted in many ways and specific targets met at every level. Ultimately though, it is local councils, schools, health practices and churches who deliver the goods.
In my ward we have some great examples of local level activities which if we all supported them would make an even greater contribution to Liverpool’s economy and community.
We have excellent local restaurants and cafes. Almost all the restaurants on Allerton Road, Rose Lane and Penny Lane are either local businesses or part of very small local chains of businesses. They buy stuff locally, often from each other to make up their menus. They live reasonably locally, employ local staff, pay local taxes and keep their profits in the community.
But there are also great shops here as well. You can buy fresh baked bread at Furrow or Rays, meat from Clarks, fish from Brian, deli stuff from Auberge, veg and fruit from Dougy. It’s not only food. Mike will serve excellent wine from Oddbins (a local franchise) Julie has great presents for Christmas at Voglio most of which are produced by local crafts people. Maze and Benetton (another franchise owned locally) will supply some great clothes. If you have a few bob to spare than you both invest in and borrow from the Lodge Lane Credit Union which has an outreach at St Barnabas every Tuesday morning. Their money and profits stay local as well.
A favourite topic of mine is ‘local pubs’. We have four ‘locals in Church Ward. I define a local as one in which most of the people walk to it and are regulars. The Storrsdale pub, the Rose of Mossley, The Greenhills Tavern and the Dovey all fall into that category. They all do great things for the local, provide good ale and food and your heart will be warmed by the sense of community and friendship inside them.
Our local churches run almost all the local youth activities. If you look at the Brownies and the Guides and Scouts and many of the nurseries and pre-school activity, they are either run directly by the churches or in church premises. There’s always something going on at St Barnabas which uses its premises on Penny Lane to provide a great venue for a variety of community events and fund-raising activities. The same is true of every other church, mosque or synagogue in or around the area.
Then we just have some marvellous community led activities. Beechley Riding for the Disabled run a city-wide facility which provides great support and therapy for disabled children and their families. Allerton in Bloom keep our streets looking great with their all-year round floral displays. We are discussing with them the development of a herb and sensory garden. Friends of Allerton Library run a range of lectures and activities.
Friends of Harthill & Calderstones Park raise money for a range of support activities and plant buying for the Park. The Reader Organisation runs an international network of ‘written word’ activities from its base in the Mansion House in Calderstones Park.
The centre piece of the community for the past 2 years was the magnificent work of the Liverpool Open and Green Spaces Group (LOGS) and ‘Save Calderstones Park’ campaign which successfully took the Council to Court in ajudicial review to prevent the Council selling off 13 acres of land in the Park for housing. They raised more than £40,000 and got 52,000 names on a petition.
As a local councillor I support all these organisations with small amounts of money; by bringing them together so that they can achieve more than they can individually; and by taking appropriate action within the Council to ensure that wherever possible support is given to them.
As an MP I would seek to do the same at a much higher level. We need a change of culture at national level to ensure that we properly assist the energy and enthusiasm of all these community activities which are in my area but replicated in almost every community in the UK. Money might be needed but this will provide not a cost but a saving. How many people’s live are enriched by being able to go for a natter at the pub? How many people benefit from being assisted by volunteering or by volunteering themselves? Local shops, especially Post Offices, also provide a community meeting point with all the benefits that I have described above.
When we consider the big things, we must consider all these small actions, and so many more as well. Perhaps if all our politics was ‘bottom up’ we might create better laws and use money better to alleviate so many of the problems that are faced by the communities of the UK. That’s my belief and that’s what I would try and do.
You can see and hear more on my thoughts about these issues on this video: https://t.co/sfKtcM00Ww?amp=1