37 years a councillor (and still going strong!!)

Of all the work I do as a Councillor the stuff I like doing best is working within my Church Ward with my fellow Councillors Liz and Andrew Makinson. How can we speak in the Council Chamber with authority and devise practical solutions for our City’s problems unless we go and talk to the people of the City?

At midnight tonight I complete my 37th year as a Councillor. I was first elected in1975 for St Michaels. In 1980 the ward was split and I was elected for the Dingle Ward and left the Council in 1984. In 1992 I re-joined the Council as a Councillor for Picton Ward and when that ward also disappeared in 2004 became a Church Ward Councillor and, despite many efforts to unseat me have remained here ever since.

Many things have changed in that time mostly for the good. As Chair of the Housing Committee in 1979/81 we began what became the largest housing cooperative programme in Western Europe. We built them as we demolished the tenement blocks of the 1930s which were good for their time but outdated and largely unloved just 50 years later.

I remember the amazement when we were provided with complaints pads with three types of paper. You kept one, gave one to your constituent and sent one to the Council. Now we zip off emails and to prove our point can attach photographs to them. In 1975 the only way to communicate with our constituents was to go and knock on the door, have many surgeries and hold public meetings. Now public meetings are a thing of the past and we regularly get roasted on social media.

Council meetings were worth going to with real characters making real speeches which were distinctly better than the low level invective which passes for oratory in the Council these days.

In some ways the scale of the Council has changed to. In 1975 every school in Liverpool was under our control as was the Liverpool Polytechnic which became Liverpool John Moore’s University and a variety of colleges which came together to become Liverpool FE College. We had more than 72,000 council houses a figure that I remember because I entertained the Minister for Housing from the Isle of Man on a  visit to the City and he pointed out that that was almost as many as the total number of people on the island!

Having all that delivery to do, however, meant that we didn’t have time for much strategic thought. We moved from delivery crisis to delivery crisis without being able to think too much about the long term. When Labour, much to our amazement, moved that all houses owned by the Council should be subject to stock transfer to housing associations we supported their plan. We then went on to deliver it when we retook control of the Council in 1998.

But much of our ability to change things in our City has been taken away from us. The money has gone to other bodies. Our powers were whittled down under both Tory and Labour Governments and it was only with the Localism Act in 2012 that we began to get just a few of those powers back although the Deputy PM John  Prescott had started to achieve a few things on our behalf in the Blair Years.

It’s never been easy to be a councillor in Liverpool. We have been a poor city since the 1920s when the wealthy moved out under the Mersey to Wirral or out to Maghull and Formby. There have always been more challenges than money or will to do anything about them. However, the last 10 years for 8 of which I have been our Party Leader have been the most difficult of all.

A Shakespearian character tells us, “the evil that men do lives after them the good is often interr’d with their bones”. That is certainly true of the Coalition Government. At times, I despaired of some of the actions taken. I don’t regret the fact that 3,000,000 people were taken out of income tax and that all workers benefitted; that rich people could put less money tax free into their pension pots; that state pensions for the first time in 25 years began to catch up with earnings; and that the amount of energy produced by wind and solar power doubled.

The Coalition made mistakes. They didn’t explain that many of the global cuts they introduced were actually in the last Labour budget. Crucially, for Liverpool’s sake, they failed to realise the distorting effects of council tax and a failure to revalue property, which caused huge losses to the council’s budgets. What was done out of necessity up to 2015 where there was a Lib Dem restraint was done for political reasons after 2015 when basic budgets like Public Health were cut.

Liverpool however did not help itself. It employed a top tier of staff who were not up to the job. It encouraged a Wild West mentality that brought inappropriate and poor quality development to the City. It had financial programmes that allowed us to pay a fortune in redundancy payments and then have to employ new staff to cover essential positions where people had been paid off.

I think that the last decade will be seen as a lost decade for Liverpool where the many good things that were done were too often overshadowed by the bad; the incompetent; and the poorly explained. In particular, the City Centre with its huge leisure and hotel offer has been improved building on the success of the 2008 European Capital of Culture. I believe that even in the uncertain shadow of Covid-19 the next decade will be better for Liverpool. We have a strong team of officers in place and over the past year the two main Parties have been far less adversarial as we have tried to work together to put Liverpool on a sound footing. All my experience locally, nationally and internationally leads me to believe that for Liverpool the best is yet to come.

So after this reflection its back to the grindstone; there’s case work to be done and a complex paper from the Local Government Association to review. If I’m going to do another 37 years (which means that I will be 104!) I must keep those electors happy!

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Lib Dems set out ideas to improve air quality post Covid

People have really liked having a clear environment and especially the cleaner air in a city which is one of the Country’s most polluted. Cllr Kris Brown has written to the Mayor asking him to look at ways in which we can keep environmental gains intact.

Councillor Kris Brown has suggested four ways in which the city can improve its air quality post the Covid pandemic.It has been calculated that the reduction in toxins in the air has already reduced the number of deaths by 11,000 throughout the UK.

In a letter to the Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Brown has suggested the following strands of activity:

1.    Helping people to walk more. Too many of our citizens are unable to walk through their local neighbourhoods for shopping and recreation purposes because of poor quality pavements; failure to introduce stepped Kerbs at crossing points and insufficient pedestrian controlled crossing as the council has sought to speed up traffic on main roads.

2.    Helping people to cycle more. There has been a huge increase in cycling during the lock down. Families have been out together partly because it is a good form of exercise and partly because they at last feel safe to do so. You announced a £4 million to improve cycling but this appears to be starting very slowly and is nowhere near sufficient to provide a comprehensive network of cycle routes throughout the city.

3.    Helping people to use the buses and trains more. There needs to be more bus lanes in the City and a comprehensive review of this network needs to take place. Bus lanes lead not only to improved bus times, if designed properly, but also provide a haven for cyclists as well. We also need to reconsider the proposals for movement of buses in the city centre.  We should take advantage of the increased numbers of platforms at Lime Street to press for more local trains.

4.    Helping people to get out of their cars. The above three measures will lead to a reduction in car use but we can do more. All finances of the council and the government are in flux. The government will seek to expand the economy, not through increased revenue spending, but by increased capital spending. They will be looking for ‘shovel ready’ schemes. Three schemes which will be environmentally unsound; the Strand, Lime Street and Riverside Drive, should be reviewed and use the savings instead on pedestrian, cycling and public transport programmes.

Cllr Kris Brown said: “As the lockdown has continued have noticed more and more comments about the quality of our air.

“Many people have told me and my Liberal Democrat colleagues that they want things to be different. They want the ‘new normal’ to be more environmentally oriented.”

ENDS

Cllr Kris Brown can be contacted at Kris.brown@liverlibdems.org.uk or call 07506 319 180.

The full text of the letter to Mayor Anderson and Cllr Robertson-Collins is below.

Dear Joe and Laura,

Clean Air for Liverpool

I understand that Liverpool Council has commissioned two consultancies to look at the future of Liverpool as we come though the Coronavirus pandemic.

In my view there has never been a better time to build into our future development the green agenda than now.

As the lockdown has continued have noticed more and more comments about the quality of our air, the pleasures from the reduction in the amount of traffic on our roads and how many people enjoy their daily exercise – in most cases just walking.  Many people have told me and my Liberal Democrat colleagues that they want things to be different. They want the ‘new normal’ to be more environmentally oriented.

It has been calculated that the reduction in toxins in the air has already reduced the number of deaths by 11,000 throughout the UK. The amount of electricity generated by solar energy has soared as the solar panels have become less covered by contaminants.

Of course, we all want to get industry and commerce moving again.  However, we do not need to lose all of them. So, my colleagues and I are suggesting that you ask the council’s consultants to look at four key strands of transportation activity:

1.     Helping people to walk more. Too many of our citizens are unable to walk through their local neighbourhoods for shopping and recreation purposes because of poor quality pavements; failure to introduce stepped Kerbs at crossing points and insufficient pedestrian controlled crossing as the council has sought to speed up traffic on main roads.

2.     Helping people to cycle more. There has been a huge increase in cycling during the lock down. Families have been out together partly because it is a good form of exercise and partly because they at last feel safe to do so. You announced a £4 million to improve cycling but this appears to be starting very slowly and is nowhere near sufficient to provide a comprehensive network of cycle routes throughout the city.

3.     Helping people to use the buses and trains more. There needs to be more bus lanes in the City and a comprehensive review of this network needs to take place. Bus lanes lead not only to improved bus times, if designed properly, but also provide a haven for cyclists as well. We also need to reconsider the proposals for movement of buses in the city centre.  We should take advantage of the increased numbers of platforms at Lime Street to press for more local trains.

4.     Helping people to get out of their cars. The above three measures will lead to a reduction in car use but we can do more. All finances of the council and the government are in flux. The government will seek to expand the economy, not through increased revenue spending, but by increased capital spending. They will be looking for ‘shovel ready’ schemes. Three schemes which will be environmentally unsound; the Strand, Lime Street and Riverside Drive, should be reviewed and use the savings instead on pedestrian, cycling and public transport programmes.      

In addition to these ideas, we know that other transport changes will happen anyway. With British Airwawys, EasyJet and Ryanair all reducing staff and saying that there will fewer people using planes for a long time to come it is clear that the expansion of Liverpool Airport will be in doubt.

That will mean that there will be less tourism from abroad to Liverpool so we will need to consider new ways to stimulate our vital city centre visitor trade.

We should be optimistic about the future of our city. If we do the right things quickly and strongly we can make Liverpool a city for the future where people will want to live, work, and enjoy themselves.

My council group colleagues and I would be pleased to talk to you and your consultants about what this might mean.

Kind regards and keep safe,

Cllr Kris Brown

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God Help the United States of America

Apologies to my readers for a semi-obscene picture which is the first I have ever put on my blog but it just perfectly summed up my thoughts about these types of people and the way that their existence poses a threat to any idea of a strong relationship with the USA.

One of the things that has pleased me most over the past three years is that no matter how stupid and boorish UK political leaders have been, and they have been bad, there have always been Countries that have suffered far worse. Ignore Brazil and Uzbekistan there is one developed country who leads any other Country with their buffoon-in-chief. Step forward the Honourable (?) President of the USA, Donald Trump.

Mr Trump is a serial liar and clown. The Washington Post has been keeping a running tally of his lies and falsehoods since he took office three long, long years ago. They started with the gross lie that more crowds attended his inauguration than either of the two ceremonies of President Obama and have continued daily ever since. The running total is more than 18,000.

I am not sure whether that includes the acts of gross stupidity revealed since the coronavirus struck. Remember them. He had the coronavirus under control; he knew better than doctors and said that the virus wasn’t serious and that it would have little effect. In fact he couldn’t understand why he hadn’t been nominated for a Nobel Prize for medicine. His hunches were good because he had a distant relation who had some medical experience 100 years ago! As things got more serious the claims grew thick and fast.       

Some of them were just lies about the USA was coping. No USA you are not doing better than the rest of the World, No you are not better equipped. Yes your hospitals have turned away people who were poor including 17 year old who had no insurance and died days later.

Some of them were dangerous and taken against the clear medical advice of his professional advisers. He recommended a type of medicine that had no proven beneficial effects and when some people ingested a version of it found in a household cleaner died. He pooh-poohed social distancing rules. He then went on to claim that bleach might be ingested to clean up your insides and that internal ultra-violet light, no I cannot understand that either,  could cure or reduce the virus.

But now he takes things even further. He has been urging red-neck thugs to actually ignore his own advice which he has reluctantly issued and supported them as they took their guns on demonstrations against Democrat Party Governors who were actually following his advice on social distancing and how and when to start coming out of the lock down.

I’ve always had a thing about the USA and guns. I’ve never touched a gun in my life but recognise that they can be used responsibly and in fact are needed by some professions especially in rural areas. If people want to go to a gun club and practice shooting it’s not my sort of thing but I don’t object to it. This week however we have seen pictures of half-wits inside the Michigan state legislature just outside the main legislative chamber holding semi-automatic weapons. Apparently this is all perfectly legal.

Should we be surprised? Probably not. The sale of guns shot up in the early days of the lockdown with queues outside the gun shops. The very idea is an anachronism to us. I’ve never touched a gun or know anyone who has done. I wouldn’t know where to buy a gun. UK murder rates are tiny compared to the USA and very few of those are conducted with guns. The Police use them very sparingly and do not normally carry one except outside obvious targets for potential terrorist attacks. Interestingly, most police make clear time and again that they don’t want to carry arms. Too many of them would get killed if guns became widespread.

Today the Prime Minister of the USA’s neighbour Canada, Justin Trudeau, has announced the banning of the sale, possession and use of semi-automatic weapons. As he rightly observed these weapons have been designed for the mass killing of people. There is no legitimate use of them by civilians.

You can, perhaps forgive Donald Trump, or President Bone Spurs, from saying daft things because he is, at the end of the day, appallingly stupid. It’s his motives that should be loathed by any civilised person. He is not attacking Republican Governors who are showing caution. Just 3 Democrat Governors in states which he needs to hold if he is to win the Presidential Election later this year. Putting an election before people’s lives shows that he is, in reality, just the scumbag-in-chief!

So why should I bother about this? If people in the USA want to elect this clown and he encourages them to do things which endanger other Americans what business is it of mine or anyone else in the UK? It’s because our own mini-Trump, Prime Minister Johnson, actually believes that our Country should become the 51st state. Along with his mates like Cummings and Gove they are in thrall to the idea of a strong Angle Saxon ‘hands across the sea’ arrangement. They want to tie us to Trump’s coat tails in thought, word and deed.

This would be dangerous to us economically and I wouldn’t favour such thoughts even if Obama were still President although I would be much more relaxed about it. However to tie us to a Country which is morally reprehensible because of its leader and which refuses to accept the norms of a civilised society would be dangerous to our way of life.

I have many American friends, not one of whom voted for Trump. I’d love us to have a stronger relationship with them. Their President stands in the way. Those of us this side of the pond can only hope that Biden gets re-elected in November and that stronger links are possible between two Countries with much common heritage. Nothing, however, will take me away from my foremost belief that we are a major European Country and that our place is within a strong and united EU.

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Mayor Anderson isn’t bluffing over state of Council’s finances

All none-stauttory services in Liverpool may be stopped unless unless the Government assists the Council in dealing with the financial strains cased by the coronavirus pandemic

Last night I received a phone call from Mayor Anderson that I was pleased to get but horrified to listen to. The immediate cause of the phone and new information to me is that Council had received just £13 million from the Government in the second tranche of assistance to councils instead of the £20 million that we received in the first tranche. It is quite clear from the way that the money has been doled out that it is on a per head basis based on the population rather than a needs basis that recognised the extra pressures on Liverpool and other core cities.

After discussion with the Mayor, I agreed to add my weight and support to the efforts he is making to get the cash we need. Liverpool has responded to the Government saying in March, “money isn’t an issue”. I have had regular discussions with the Mayor and staff of the Council and have agreed with the spending that has been undertaken. Basically, the Council has acted to support the care and voluntary sectors in their work to keep pressure on the NHS as low as possible.

Of course, I believe that if we had run the Council for the past ten years we would have done some things differently and would have been in a better position to deal with the issues. However, no matter who had been running the Council it would have made little difference to the situation the Council is now in. Even if the Council were to cut all spending that is not statutory, I do not think we would now have enough cash to pay for statutory services like adult and Children’s care and getting the bins emptied.

To back up our case I written to our Lib Dem Leaders in local government, Lib Dem parliamentarians, Senior LGA staff and senior central government staff that I know from my national work. A copy of the one that I have sent to the Lib Dems is shown below but the others have been different intone but not direction.

Liverpool is not alone in this. The Local Government Association has estimated a £5 billion shortfall in council finances across England. Tis is caused not only by increased expenditure but by a cut in our income from fees and charges, Council Tax and Business rates. I would hope then that this Liverpool work will be replicated with similar and joint calls from all Councils in the Liverpool City Region and from all the English Core City Councils.

Liberal Democrats in Liverpool have agreed that now is not the time for politics or partisan rhetoric. We will work with people of all Parties and of none to try and keep the essential services of the Council going in these dreadful circumstances.

This is my letter to to Lib Dem Leaders in local government copied to senior LGA officials:


Subject: Liverpool needs help

Cllr Howard Sykes, Leader, LGA Lib Dems

Cllr Ruth Dombey, Deputy Leader LGA Lib Dems

Cllr Keith House, Resources Spokes, LGA Lib Dems

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing this note to you following a discussion about the finances of Liverpool City Council with Mayor Anderson. You will see I am copying him in to this. On Friday, I will be having a detailed meeting with him, our 151 Officer and the Chief Exec and had already received an alarming report on our Council’s finances which have now got even worse.

In the allocation of our share of the first £1.6 billion Liverpool received £20 million. Our share of the second tranche is just £13 million. It would appear that this money is now being distributed on a ‘per capita’ rather than on a ‘needs based’ approach. To date we are committed to an additional £78 million expenditure mostly on Adult Social Care stuff but a small amount on other consequences. Some of this expenditure has been contingency work for the other 5 LCR Boroughs but even if we were to get that back there is still a huge gap between what we need to do to deliver the support to the NHS that is needed with a core city and what we are being given.

We simply do not have a back pocket full of cash. Our budget for this year included in year cuts that will probably be now unachievable. Like the rest of you we will also lose rates, council tax and other income. Our 151 Officer is now looking seriously at the serving of a section114 notice. However, if she served it and stopped all none statutory work our costs on the increased statutory work in ASC would still be more than our income so there would be a financial and a service delivery fault.

I know that the LGA is trying to put increased pressure on the Government but I believe it now needs to do two things:

  1. Be much more strident in its tone in demanding more assistance from the Government; and
  2. Move into an area which I know is fraught with difficulties for it and talk about what fair funding really means in the allocation of scarce resources

I would be happy to give you an update on Friday’s meeting as indeed I am sure Joe would. If you want more information in the short term please let me know on 07885 626913

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How many people have died in Liverpool and where did they live?

Too many of our older citizens have had their lives cut short, with no loved ones to help their passing and our callous government does not even recognise their deaths in our official daily statistics.

Today I have written to the Council to urge it to compile and release more accurate figures about who is dying from the Coronavirus in Liverpool and where they live. In his letter he points out the considerable differences between the Daily Governmental figures and the deaths in the community as a whole revealed by weekly Office of National Statistic figures.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I lead on health and social care at the LGA, the national body for local councils, and believe that if we are to come out of lock down quickly and safely, we must have accurate information so that sources of infection can be speedily assessed and dealt with. Not only do we not know where people live who die in hospital, we cannot relate those figures to deaths in the community and residential homes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is further complicated by the fact that post-mortems are now showing that coronavirus is now killing more people than the bronchial routes. Significant numbers of deaths are now being shown to be CV related and killing people through strokes, heart, liver and kidney problems.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Unless the Government knows nationally the full extent of coronavirus contagion we cannot assess when to come out of lock down, what should be allowed out of lock down and who will continue to need help by way of medical or emotional support.                                                                                                                                                                             The Government needs to give the people of the UK the full figures so that local officials in our towns and cities can also provide to local councils the information we need to do our job properly.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The full letter to Council officials can be seen here:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Martin Farran, Director of Adult Services,                                                                   Matthew Ashton, Director of Public Health                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Evidence coming in from the Office of National Statistics, and in other Countries including the USA, indicates that we are grossly underestimating deaths caused by Covid-19. In the UK we are still only making announcements of hospital deaths on a national basis. We are now getting better figures through from CQC about deaths in residential care homes and delayed information on deaths in the community. But even if you add all these together, they appear to be under assessing the Covid deaths because of a narrow definition of this.                                                                                                                                                                                                      We now know that Covid is causing deaths because of the problems it has caused to liver, heart and kidneys. It also appears to be causing deaths to some by blood clotting which is leading to sudden and massive strokes in people with no personal or familial stroke history.                                                                                                                                                                                In addition to these clear Covid associations there are suggestions that the Virus is having a greater effect as people suffer from mental illnesses leading to depression, deaths from Domestic Violence; a reluctance to go to hospital because they are considered dangerous and lastly because people don’t want to trouble the NHS in these crisis times.                                                                                                                                                                                            The ONS is monitoring excess deaths over seasonal average which is the standard way of judging the depth of a pandemic. These figures are not really hitting the headlines and creating the impact they should because they are issued by a statistician and not in a highly exciting way by a breathless politician.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If we are to make sense of the figures and, crucially, use them for deciding when and how to come out of lock down, we need to know the full extent of the deaths and the type so that we can plan effectively. The NHS and Government need that information nationally but just as importantly councils and their partners need that information locally for our effective local  planning.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             For that reason, I think we need to do two things in Liverpool if this is possible.                                                                                                  1.           We need to build a heat map of where people in our city who are dying actually live. Many of the people who are dying in Liverpool hospitals are not Liverpool citizens. They did not catch the virus in hospital so where did they catch it. An analysis would show the places and people on which the Council and NHS needs to concentrate its scarce proactive resources.                                                                                                                                                            2.         We need to have the picture of average excess deaths in our City so that we can establish the true covid-19 mortality in the City for measures we can adopt to help us locally out of the lock down.                                                                                                                                                          Are these possible? If so can we do them on the knowledge base that we now have and the information routes open to us?                                                                                                                                                          I look forward to hearing from you.

296 excess deaths need explaining

Cllr Kemp says, “A standard way of checking the progress of deaths in pandemics or epidemics is to look not just at those cases which are ascribed to the pandemic but which relate to all deaths and so map the total effect of the pandemic.

The latest total death figures are for the period 2st March to 24th April for Merseyside.

In this period on Merseyside the number of deaths which occurred was almost twice the average expected number of deaths with 2,243 actual registered deaths against an anticipated seasonal average of 1,170 expected.

Of the total 777 are registered as Covid deaths, which means an unexplained number of 296 extra deaths. This is particularly surprising when the weather has been so glorious which normally reduces the death rate. There have also been drops in other causes of death such as road traffic collisions.

It is vital that we understand the nature of these deaths. Global and UK evidence is showing that a number of cases where CV was not suspected of being a cause of death were found to have been the probable cause of death after post-mortems have been held. Other causes are possible. For example there is some evidence that people are either scared of going to hospital because of the infections there or don’t want to trouble the NHS are busy.

Without an understanding of why these shocking excess deaths are occurring we cannot adequately at a local level plan to deal with these causes or effectively plan measures to safely release us from the lockdown.

I am renewing my call for these deaths to be reviewed and explained and for the provision of a heat or location map which shows where infections are likely to have occurred.

We cannot move to a trace and contain policy effectively on the information that we currently have.

It also shows why the Government have belatedly been forced to give the full figures daily with the number of deaths in care homes being approximately 4 times the expected volime on Merseyside.

Merseyside Figures extracted from today’s Office of National Statistics Report

Between 21 March and 24 April 2020, 2243 deaths were registered on Merseyside compared to 1170 expected (a 1.9 fold increase). Of the 2243 deaths, 777 (35%) were due to COVID and 1466 were non-COVID. When COVID deaths are excluded, deaths are still much higher than expected (i.e. 2243 deaths – 777 COVID deaths – 1170 expected deaths =  296).

Excess deaths in care homes Between 21 March and 24 April 2020, 636 deaths occurred in care homes on Merseyside compared to 222 expected (a 2.9 fold increase). Of the 636 care home deaths, 153 (24%) were due to COVID and 483 were non-COVID. When COVID deaths are excluded, deaths are much higher than expected (i.e. 636 deaths – 153 COVID deaths – 222 expected deaths =  261).

This means there were 261 excess deaths in care homes over the 4 week period which could have been due to people who died from COVID but weren’t tested or who died from complications due to other conditions which were not treated because of the virus.

Deaths over and above seasonal averages that are not registered as COVID-19 deaths may have been directly or indirectly caused by the virus. This includes people who died at home or in care homes and were not tested for the virus or those who died from non-coronavirus conditions because they were unable to get treatment. In 2018 there were 15,206 deaths on Merseyside (around 292 a week) and around a fifth of those occurred in care homes.

This means there were 296 excess deaths over the 4 week period which could have been due to people who died  from COVID but weren’t tested (including people in carehomes) or those who died from complications due to other conditions because they were unable to get treatment.

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Call in retired police staff to contact trace to prevent virus spread

Our Police Spokesperson for Merseyside, Cllr Kris Brown has made some great suggestions about how to get conronavirus testing up and running which will help end lockdown safely

The Lib Dems Merseyside Spokesperson on Policing Cllr Kris Brown has written to the Police Commissioner and Chief Constable for Merseyside to suggest that former Police Officers, emergency contact centre staff and Special Constables who may be furloughed from the full time jobs might be just the right people to help the Government’s contact tracing scheme.

Cllr Brown said, “Last Thursday the Government announced two schemes to bring in the contact tracing without which it will be impossible to end the lock down any time soon. As usual the announcement was bold but the details not yet thought through. They want to recruit people with public health experience but locally and nationally Public Health Directors are saying that are no spare public health people as they have already been brought back in to service. They intend to employ 18,000 people in call centres and physically, to trace contacts of people with the Coronavirus. It occurred to me that there are already a group of people who know how to trace people and hold difficult phone conversations and those are former police officers or former emergency call centre workers who already know how to do it.

In addition there may well be furloughed Special Constables who would find that being associated with a programme like this good for their Police skills training. Further, there are thousands of people who have signed up to be NHS volunteers and who have not been used who may also have the relevant skills.”

We need to get cracking with this to get our communities and our economies safely working again. The best way to do this is by using people with proven experience.

I hope that the Police Commissioner and Chief Constable for Merseyside feel also that this is a useful idea and can help with the process here”.

Cllr Brown’s full letter to Rt. Hon. Jane Kennedy and Chief Constable Andy Cooke is reproduced here:

To: Jane Kennedy, Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner

      Andy Cooke, Chief Constable, Merseyside Police

Dear Jane and Andy,

Re: Contact Tracing for Covid-19

I am sure that you are aware that last week the government announced that they would be employing 18,000 people to engage in contact tracing to help reduce contacts between infectious people and those who have not yet had the infection. Some of these will work from a phone bank and some will be active in the community. This will also involve the development of an app which will let people know if they are near someone who is infected.

As with many policy announcements there appears to be a lot of big talk but not a lot of detail. I have spoken to political and public health colleagues who are concerned that unless managed properly, this project will fall apart very quickly.

One of the assumptions is that people with public health experience could be employed in either, or both, of the contacting roles. The obvious drawback to this is that over the past five years the ranks of public health staff have been seriously cut back. We have no spare capacity and could not move people from their current roles where they are already greatly overburdened.

It did occur to me, however, that there could be three groups of people, though not exclusively, connected with the Police who might already have these skills and who could be employed in these tasks:

• Retired police officers.

• Retired emergency call centre staff.

• Special constables who might be furloughed from their full-time jobs who could use this to advance their skills.

There is also a fourth element in that there are hundreds of thousands of NHS responder volunteers who have signed up to help in their local communities but have yet to receive work, despite being on duty for hundreds of hours. Some of these people could be called upon and may bring with them specialist expertise.

I appreciate these volunteers would not be in your remit, but with training from experienced former emergency call centre staff, for example, could be a valuable resource.

I am wondering two things:

1. Do you think that this is a good idea in principle; and

2. Are there ways in which the police could reach out to these categories to try and enlist them in the launch and running of the scheme on Merseyside?

I believe that these categories of people have the skills and that you may be the best way to recruit them. I look forward to hearing from you and talking with you about this.

Cllr Kris Brown

Liberal Democrat Candidate for Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner

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Will the Everton Stadium ever get built?

This image in Today’s Echo is a salutory reminder of the deep problems the development market got into in Liverpool after the past crisis and our need to think and plan differently in future.

I wrote yesterday to the Mayor and other Party Leaders in Liverpool, on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Group, about how the Council needed to look at preparations for a very different future in Liverpool.

Today we had some salutary reminders in the Echo of what has happened in Liverpool following the last financial crash. Another Company which used fractional investment has gone into administration. Meanwhile problems are clearly occurring with a part complete building on the Strand which went into administration last year.

Because of the way that the Council behaved after 2010 brought in to our City developers with no track record in development and no capital behind them. Instead they used fractional investment and other schemes which transferred the risk of development to purchasers. It promised huge returns which were guaranteed but ultimately undeliverable. In the schemes that were finished the capital and revenue returns have been nothing like those promised. Many of the properties have never been completed. Like the Paramount and Rise development they remain half completed shells which have little likelihood of ever being completed.

Accountants acting as administrators and the Police have been investigating. It seems that at least £200,000,000 and possibly up to £500,000,000 has gone missing, wasted or not been applied to the use for which the investment was obtained. Liverpool’s reputation has been sullied internationally and responsible corporate investors have shunned the City. Has the Council learned from this? Who knows? Some things have been improved since the arrival of a new Chief Executive almost two years ago. We still await the corporate response from the Council. The Fractional Investment Task Group was established almost two years ago but has yet to issue its report or recommendations. I produced one which people can get from me at richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk.

But it is important that we learn not only because we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes but because we need to understand that this crisis is far deeper than the one in 2008 and will have important repercussions that we need to consider as a Council. The simple fact is that there has been created a huge gap in capital availability globally which will take years to rebuild. There won’t be the money to build things and people’s habits may well have changed at least in the short to middle term. This is how it might apply to just 3 headline schemes in the City:

The biggest is the new EFC ground at Bramley Moore dock. Quite simply it looks highly unlikely that there will be the £500,000,000+ capital required for this project available or available at the right price for the project. There are other factors as well. EFC’s revenue has been badly hit by the crisis. Many costs have continued but revenues have almost totally disappeared. Will those revenue losses quickly reverse when the game proceeds? Some local blue noses may well feel that going to places where lots of people gather is not for them in the next year or so. Even if a partial lock down ends soon the virus will continue to halt or reduce activities until about 12 months after a vaccine has been produced and then more months as the vaccine is rolled out. The likelihood is though, that those who fly in or train or car in from a distance will not be so inclined to do so.

If we go South down the Mersey we come to the proposed Liner Terminal. There is no doubt that the cruising industry will be badly hit for years. The travel industry commentators and researchers have looked at this. The industry largely depends on wealthy elderly people, large numbers of which have been American. These people are reporting that they will not be returning to the cruises quickly and up to 30% of them will never board a cruise liner again. They have been worried about the tales of death on the cruise liners which have highlighted the fact that when, never mind a coronavirus, an infection such as salmonella gets aboard it rapidly spreads and often causes death. How many cruises will come to Liverpool? I don’t know but clearly for the next few years nowhere near as many as we had anticipated. So will the terminal be needed or viable?

Further South, we get to Liverpool Airport where a big expansion had been mooted onto the Oglet foreshore. The likelihood of this happening in the foreseeable future if ever is absolutely zero. Peel holdings is having major problems with capital and has been having to sell assets because of its heavy exposure to retail. How badly it is affected we have no idea because it is an offshore company which trades through about 500 interlinked companies. But trade reports are that they have clear difficulties. Here also there will be cultural and user changes. One of the biggest firms which flies out of the airport, Ryanair, has warned that its business model is bust if they have to leave flights with blocked off seats to preserve social distancing. Well not only will they have to do that but they will need to react to the market. Many people I know simply will be very reluctant to get into very highly congested areas in airports and airplanes for a long time.

Off course there will be upsides as well. That is why I am urging the Council even now to take a long hard look at the economic and cultural changes that will flow into the post virus world. If our city is to do well we must drop cherished dreams of the past and work up viable dreams for the future. The Council’s role in this will be limited. We will have huge financial difficulties ourselves and our ability to borrow has already been restricted by a huge increase in the cost of our borrowing from the Public Works Loans Board.

The sad fact is that we have to do two things. Firstly, we need to cope with the emergencies which are causing huge strain on many of our officers but where, in my opinion, we are doing well. Secondly, we need to find space to look at what we should be doing for the future. I have suggested on several occasions how this might be done but have had no response from officers or politicians within the Council.

The Cities and areas that will do well in the future are those who are forward looking, research oriented and capable. Our Council is beginning to look flatfooted and backward looking. I can only hope, on behalf of all of us, that this changes. If not, we will continue to have quality investors shunning us and will have to depend on more dubious investments and more dubious investment methodologies while Manchester and other cities continue to prosper!

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