The Health Debate – Learning from the USA!!

donald-trump-jan-2017

Can we learn from this loathsome reptile the way to have a debate on health by doing the exact opposite of what he does?!

No, I haven’t quite taken leave of the few senses that I have when I suggest that we can look at the United States and learn from the way they are conducting their health debate! The way they are handling it is so bad that perhaps we can hope that by doing the exact opposite we might find a British way forward.

In a nail-biting vote last Friday morning the US Senate voted against a move to scrap Obamacare. Much attention was focused on Senator John McCain. But his vote was the final one of three that kept Obamacare in place. With the Democrats voting 100% for the retention of Obamacare it was the two women senators from Alaska and Maine that really advanced the arguments for good health care for all. They pointed out that it is the poor and especially women who suffer when the state fails to provide health care. They pointed out that planned parenthood activities would particularly suffer.

They argued against an ideology about health which threatened any logical debate about health itself. Significantly the USA is the only developed country where the state does not take the lead in providing health care for all its citizens. The biggest argument seemed to be whether or not Obamacare is damaging the health insurance market. Markets should not be the prime consideration or even a consideration when looking at health issues. The USA spends far more of its GDP in health but has one of the worst outcomes in the developed world.

There are many reasons for this but one of the main reasons is the cost of the bureaucracy, the cost of running parallel services and the cost of claims and litigation. It is difficult to work out how much money actually gets spent on health and how much is drained out of the system by hangers-on and profit.

In many ways, the level of debate in this Country is little better. We argue about the amount of money that needs to go into the health and social system. Every election we conduct an ‘arms race’ to  try and show how our lot will try and spend more than their lot! But there is very little discussion of the changes that need to be undertaken to improve a system which is creaking at the seams, which needs change more than it needs more money and where society as a whole has failed to come to terms with what increased life-spans mean to the way that society run.

The Community Wellbeing Board of the Local Government Association Board recently received a personation about the financing of the Health & Social Care Services. The presentation showed that since the financial year 2003/04 the spending in the NHS had increased in real terms by 71% whilst spending on Public Health and Adult Social Care had flatlined. The flat lining includes the recently announced extra £2 billion and the precepts which English Councils have been a lowed to raise. Even allowing for the next precept rise next year there will still be a £2.1-£2.3 billion social care deficit by 2020/21.

It seems obvious that the solution lies not in putting more money into the health services but intervening differently in the health/social care life continuum. Looking at two facts from the NHS. At any one time about 10% of beds in hospitals are occupied by people with type II diabetes. This is almost entirely avoidable and is caused by people eating and drinking either the wrong stuff or the wrong amounts and/or not taking enough exercise. Obesity itself costs the NHS £6.1 billion each year. This is entirely avoidable for the same reasons as Diabetes II

At the other end of the spectrum it costs about £550 to keep someone in a hospital bed for one night. Yet it only costs about £650 a week to provide top quality care in a residential home or less for good quality domiciliary care. It is blindingly obvious that huge amounts can be saved, over time, by stopping people becoming ill and getting them out of hospital quickly. Yet these are the areas that have been least supported by Government.

Putting more money into the NHS is needed in the short term but only if it is to give a respite for demand whilst attending to the two local government priorities. Yet it is not only money that is required but a culture change. We need to engage intelligently with the public about the life long social care/health care continuum. We need to establish new grounds and levels at which we take responsibility for our own lives, our children’s lives; our relations’ lives and our community’s lives. We must do more to help ourselves and each other and not rely on an NHS which will run out of money or a new pill or procedure which will become ever more difficult to find.

In the short-term we need to increase the money we pay for adult social care in both residential and domiciliary care. That will deal with poor conditions, chronic under investment and the poor pay for staff which leads to a huge staff turnover (which will get worse because of Brexit for several reasons). In the longer-term innovation is required in the way that we support families at crucial life-changing points; provide housing that is appropriate for all needs and look at the social interactions which can make a person’s life passable or great.

None of this can take place without having a great debate with the people of the Country. We need to show how current perceptions of what the NHS and councils can do is unsustainable given the changing demographics. We need to help people understand their roles and responsibilities. We need to support them with laws and regulations which will limit access to products, practices and lifestyles which ultimately cause them harm and wreck our financial systems.

The Parties in parliament are too myopic and inward looking to retreat from hard ideological nonsense and false promises to always fund everything that is needed and possible. If we cannot expect all-Party co-operation from them then the LGA must provide the necessary leadership.  I believe that the Local Government Association must take the lead in raising the standards of national debate. We work across Party in what is for the most part a pragmatic way looking for practical solutions. Our Councillors and our Councils must become the agents for change without which our much-loved health service will inevitably crumble. We can do this in three ways:

  • Offer to work with the Health and DCLG Select Committees to examine and spread the message of the need for change.
  • Offer to work with the 20 MPs of all Parties brought together by Norman Lamb who together went to meet the Prime Minister.
  • Campaign within our communities for a full and long-term debate about the health and social care continuum and how every single one of us must play our part in doing things differently to care for ourselves, our family, our community and our locality.

Some may say that this is not the job of local councils and their councillors. I disagree. The Health Service was able to get going so quickly in 1948 because it brought together many initiatives that were already being run by local government. For decades, local government was the National Health Service. If the national parties cannot work together for the public good to change our health and social care culture then local government must step into the breach. We have the experience, pragmatism and local knowledge to do this and to do it well. Let’s get on with the job.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

 

Posted in Health Service Debate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Take Pride in Liverpool’s Pride Celebrations this weekend

Cable

Our Leader, Vince Cable, sets out a  powerful Lib Dem view on LGBT issues in PinkNews which is especially relevant following the Trump declaration on trans-gender soldiers

It had been my intention today to write my own blog about Liverpool Pride and the fact that Liverpool Lib Dems will be out tomorrow on the march and with a stall in the marquee for Liverpool Pride. However, our Leader, Vince Cable, has done a better one than I could ever do in an article for PinkNews. Therefore, I briefly set out my beliefs and live the heavy lifting to the Boss!

Liberal Democrats have always been in the vanguard of gay and transgender rights and were the leading force behind the full equality which same sex marriage was brought about in the time of the coalition government. Who people love is a question of the heart and inclination not law, politics or religion. As a liberal I have always believed that people have the right to lead their own lives in the way they want to lead it providing it causes no physical problems to anyone else and is within the broad parameters of human rights and consent for all concerned.

In my 50 years in politics there have been many improvements in the way society treats LGBT issues. Not least is the fact that homosexuality is no longer an offence. Society as a whole welcomed the same sex marriage vote in the Commons. The same parameters for ‘decency’ now apply to all sexuality and quite right too. But underneath the surface of a ‘liberal society’ such as ours there are still people to whom people of the same sex loving one another is an abomination.

Every year at Pride a small group of far-right theologians will make their stand with their ineffectual banners threatening the wrath of God on those who according to their theology God has created. They don’t bother me. It’s when people with such abominable views not only get into positions of power but use that position to try and enforce outdated social beliefs.

Step forward the ever-loathsome President Donald Trump.  This draft dodging President has decided that trans gender people cannot serve in the American Armed Forces. Fortunately, the Pentagon has said it will ignore the President! Personally, I don’t care who is prepared to die to defend me if the chips are down. Thank goodness that people of all orientations, faces and sexualities are prepared to do just that. But why should I expand on that? Our new Leader, Vince Cable has an article in PinkNews today which points out that having a loathsome toe rag like Trump in position at least exposes the underbelly of filth which still exists in some minds in the Western World.

I am reproducing in full, with thanks to PinkNews, the article.

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable: Despite decriminalisation, the battle for LGBT+ rights is far from won

PinkNews Exclusive
It is half a century since homosexuality was decriminalised, at least in part. And it is tempting to look at it in that light, an historical event, and celebrate how much more liberal society has become. But President Trump’s re-introduction of the ban on transgender people in the US military this week should shake us out of any such complacency: the battle for LGBT+ rights is a battle that is far from won.

The period that saw the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 left a powerful impression on me. It was around this time that I returned to the UK from Kenya with my now late wife, Olympia. She was Indian, and we arrived in a Britain snarling with the racism of Enoch Powell’s notorious “rivers of blood” speech. Intolerance was not merely tolerated by the state, but enforced by it, with immigrants, women and of course members of the LGBT+ community discriminated against in a way that is hard now to fully understand.

But it was also a time of social change, even ferment. My colleague David Steel piloted an act that legalised abortion that same year. And gay people could finally have sex without fear of prosecution (provided they were both 21 or over, and it was in private).

Looking back, the sheer level of bigotry is shocking. Even many supporters of the reform referred to homosexuality as a “disability”. By 1974, the number of arrests for gay “offences” had actually increased. It was not until 2001, after a defeat in the European Court of Human Rights, that the Labour government was forced to repeal the criminalisation of “homosexual acts”.

The campaign for equality under the law has been taken up by figures across the political divide, but I am proud to lead a party that has always been at the forefront of that fight, and not merely because one of the men who went on to found my party – Roy Jenkins – was the Home Secretary who helped ease the 1967 private members bill onto the statute books.

We were the first party to commit to equalising the age of consent, to have LGBT people serving in the military and to legalise same-sex marriage. Plus, you could throw in gender recognition, PrEP on the NHS, ending the spousal veto, as well as inclusive, appropriate sex and relationship education, the offering of asylum to vulnerable LGBT+ people, and the ending of deportation to countries where minorities face persecution.

I was particularly proud recently when the Liberal Democrats forced on the government a pardon for Alan Turing, who by cracking the Enigma code helped turn the war against Hitler. He effectively invented the computer – he was that significant a figure – yet committed suicide, apparently because he was persecuted for his homosexuality. Turing worked at the National Physical Laboratory in my Twickenham constituency, and I was delighted when a school there was named after him recently. The Lib Dem hope is that by gaining a pardon for such a great British figure, the government will now feel pressured to pardon the 75,000 others prosecuted for “homosexual acts” (49,000 of whom died having been branded criminals). That campaign continues.

The 1967 Act should not be seen so much as the culmination of a long campaign as an important step on a long road. The Trump decision is far from the most egregious example around the world of how people can be treated if they don’t fit into the idea of other peoples’ norms.

Even in this country, bigotry is still well and truly will us. My colleague (Lord) Brian Paddick went on radio this week to mark the half century anniversary of the Act – and he, as a gay man, was then subject to online abuse. My sense is that younger people are hugely more accepting of diversity than those of a generation ago. Indeed, they seem to understand instinctively that diversity should be celebrated. But there are still shocking examples of young people being bullied or suffering depression because of their sexuality. It is incumbent on all of us to make their lives better.

You cannot emphasise enough how much more liberal Britain is today than it was half a century ago. And because of that it is a much better place, where people are freer to live according to their own natures and desires. Through education we can become aware of our own possibilities, and celebrate the different life paths of others.

But as those campaigners for gay rights reminded us, there are battles to be fought on sexuality, gender and race, as the recent shocking increase in hate crime reminds us. And I am increasingly troubled by problems around generational unfairness.

We live in a Britain that is fairer, kinder and more accepting than the one I returned to half a century ago – but be under no illusions, there is much more work to do.

 

Posted in Liverpool | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

St Johns Market- A tale of council incompetence!

So what toy story

Cllr Juarez and I visited the traders at St John’s Market for a 3rd time. At the committee this week we want the whole story and not the Toy Story!

You would think that after 810 years as a market authority we would have learned just a little bit about how to run a market. Apparently in the 810 years since we first received our Market Charter Liverpool City Council has learned nothing.

Cllr Juarez and I visited the market again today to hear first hand from the traders what their issues are. This is in advance of a meeting of the Regeneration Select Committee on Thursday when Cllr Juarez has a motion down for discussion.

Mirna and I felt humbled in the presence of the traders. These are people whose livelihoods have been threatened by council incompetence and many of them have had severe problems at home because of their money problems. Yet they were prepared to listen and talk to us; to make sure that we knew their side of the story and were coming up with very reasonable requests to the council to try, even at this late stage, to put things right.

This matter could not, under any circumstances, have been handled worse. Let’s start from a starting point which we can all agree on. The old St John’s Market was staggering along and had not adapted to modern times. Although 40/50 traders were making a reasonable living at the market the upper floor had not been used for years and there was a considerable danger of continued decline.

The first problem was that the Council conspicuously refused to involve traders in the design process. Who knows best how to make markets work? Two lots of people – the traders and the customers. Neither set was consulted.

This led to the second problem. No decision was made about what he market was for. Was it supposed to be cheap and cheerful or posh and attracting different customers. In some ways it does not matter what the choice was although I would have gone for the cheap and cheerful a decision should have been made and the design altered to meet that vision.

Thirdly a company was appointed that had no experience of designing markets. In some ways you might consider that this is not too important. Anyone can go and see successfully upgraded and modernised markets throughout the North of England. But clearly no-one went to look.

So a market was designed with all the feel of an accident and emergency unit. Dark cubicles, poor signage and poor attention to detail. Traders knew this was a problem and many decided, having seen it, not to come back. Others came in and left after a few weeks. The market now has only 29 traders, some might have been persuaded to stay by the actions of the Labour Council after Cllr Juarez went to visit and put down the motion which you can see below.

Then crass decision followed crass decision. Unbelievably for a retail place there was absolutely no marketing budget. Appallingly high rents were set which would have been difficult to achieve under any circumstances, but definitely difficult if there were no visitors.

With lots of empty spaces in what the council considered to be prime sites new businesses in the food sector were pushed to the periphery where there is next to no footfall.

The response from the council was dire. It was clear in early January that there were serious problems. A new manager was brought in but not allowed to manage. Traders debts grew and some left. Attempts to bring in new ideas such as a toddler’s area were rejected although this would have been a huge draw for mums to have a cup of tea, a cake and a chat whilst watching their children in the central area. The Council refused to engage, the new manager went and someone else has now been brought in.

The Mayor finally came to call properly. In his first visit, he met just two traders recently he came back to try and meet all the remaining traders but the council is still proceeding poorly. The long-term future of the market can only be assured if the council involve users and traders and do it quickly there is no sign of that happening.

Meanwhile most of the council seem to be bemused by the whole set of events. The Regeneration Select Committee should already have set up a ‘task and finish group’ to look at these problems, decide what went wrong and made recommendations. BUT they did not do so. Labour Councillors are not allowed to scrutinise the Executive without permission from the Executive!!

So we are where we are! Cllr Juarez will move her motion in committee and we all hope, especially the traders, that it will be supported by the committee. I fear that politics will get in the way. That is sad because this is people’s livelihoods we are talking about here and perhaps that of their family as well. I attach Cllr Juarez’s motion below tell her what you think about it at mirna.juarez@liverpool.gov.uk. Above all pop in to the Market and spend a few bob. There are some good traders and more than a few bargains to be had there!!

Motion to the Regeneration Select Committee

Cllr Mirna Juarez

This Committee notes with concern the serious problems being faced by market traders at St John’s Market where only 29 out of 140 units are currently taken and with some traders giving notice to terminate their lease as they are currently not even covering their costs.

It resolves therefore to establish a ‘Task and Finish Group’ to:

  1. Review how the council can have spent £2.5 million on such a poorly designed market which has ignored all the opinions of experienced market traders and best practice in market design;
  2. Review all aspects of the capital programme for the market including
  3. Review how the council can redesign the market in such a way as to give high quality physical conditions in which a market can thrive rather than the soulless sterile feel of the current market.
  4. Establish appropriate relationships between the council and the market traders
  5. Look at the development of a marketing campaign to attract both customers and traders to the market
  6. Develop a programme of events to enable some life to be given to the market to create an appropriate atmosphere.

The Task and Finish Group to be composed equally of traders and councillors.

The Task and Finish Group to meet urgently to consider these and other appropriate matters with a view to completing their report by the end of September.

It requests the Mayor and Cabinet to give urgent consideration to a 50% reduction in rent levels at the market until the proposals of the Task and Finish Group can be implemented following the reporting of the Task Group to Cabinet.

So what happened at the committee?

After 35 years membership of the Council I should know better than to expect the Labour Party either to behave properly or allow proper debate and scrutiny. Before Cllr Juarez moved her motion she asked for permission for a representative of the Traders to speak. That was refused. After she spoke I asked to speak (I am not a member of the Committee). I wasn’t allowed to speak. Instead the Labour moved an amendment which removed the idea of a joint committee with the Traders to look at the past and more importantly the future. They also agreed to get a  report back by December instead of September.

These two changes were crucial. Firstly many of the traders will go out of business if decisions are not made quickly. decisions need to be made which will help them with their crucial Christmas trade. the Labour amendment put things into the long grass. Secondly, the Traders put no trust in vague promises of consultation. After years of being ignored they sought the certainty of a mechanism put in place and run by the council as a whole and not by the Cabinet Members who have caused the problem in the first .

Every time the Labour Party gag a Lib Dem  it tells people that they are scared of the facts, the truth and democracy. My colleagues and I will not be deterred by their scurrilous behaviour. We will fight on for the people of Liverpool.

Posted in Liverpool City Council | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The joys of being a Councillor in Anderson’s Town Hall

anderson

Mayor Joseph Anderson. The master of bluff and obfuscation

This is a blog with a difference. I am actually writing it during a council meeting in the Town Hall. You might think that I should have better things to do in a council meeting than write a blog but in all council meetings there is a huge amount of tedium where people recite prepared and partisan speeches which are occasionally interspersed with items of drama, tension or plain anger.

So, we are approaching 5.00pm. The Lord Mayor will be in soon and I am thinking about my first intervention which is to challenge the accuracy of the minutes of the last council meeting because they do not include a full report on the statement by the Mayor that they had legal advice that suspending a staff member without prejudice is in itself prejudicial.

Well that was a waste of time but I did try! The Mayor made a statement at the last council about how the Chief Executive had not been suspended because they had legal advice that suspending someone without prejudice was itself prejudicial. I tried to ensure that was written into the minutes of the Council because it has important ramifications for the way the council does its work.

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor were up and down like jack-in-a- boxes with the Mayor totally inventing something I had said just seconds before. This might sound trivial but it really is important.

We are now listening to a sombre but excellent statement from the Deputy Chief Fire Officer about what is happening in Merseyside after the Grenfell Tower disaster. They are doing a shed load of work to check properties and reassure tenants. Hundreds of blocks and individual properties visited and full checks in place across the conurbation. Well done our fire bobbies. A massive endorsement to them from every councillor across the political divide.

Then a cracking speech from Francis Molloy whose son was killed when an ‘accident’ was caused when a 17.5 hour tyre collapsed. Accident in inverted commas because this was no accident. Although regrettably not illegal the penny pinching actions of buying second hand and ancient tyres is grossly immoral.

Well that was a funny one. We had a statement from the Mayor updating us about the situation with the Chief Executive which didn’t say anything other than what was already in public. We were told that legal advice had been given that we couldn’t ask questions about this item! So, we didn’t. We can have a private and confidential meeting but I rarely go to those because I normally feel that if it cannot be said in public. I accept that in personal matters that can be changed. I don’t see any point to going to such a meeting in this case because I suspect I already know more than the Mayor is prepared to tell me!

But then the Mayor made no other statement. This meant that I could raise no questions on any of the issues that the people of Liverpool want to hear about. Not only the Chief Executive but St John’s Market; Chinatown; the Edge Lane hole; the city region squabbles (that will be the last item on the agenda) or anything at all. That’s why I don’t take Council meetings seriously they have very little bite or meaning.

Labour have just voted down an amendment which called for a reduction in allowances for members of the Transport Authority which is no longer an authority!

Now back to the subjects we had outside speakers for earlier. Grenfell Towers and the ‘Tyred Out’ campaign. We will not speak on these items not because we disagree but because we do agree. We need more regulations to protect our lives not less. Government continually gives the impression that ‘Health & Safety’ is just an unnecessary. Tell that to Francis Molloy and the relatives of the 80 who died in Grenfell Towers.

Actually, I did speak in support. There are times when we can just agree and support each other.

So, on both the two motions about safety the council voted unanimously to support them with an excellent speech for our own Cllr Juarez in support of the ‘Tyred Out’ motion. She spoke as a mum as well as a councillor.

Now we are on to a motion about the problems being faced by the Police and Police Officers. It is clear that there are huge problems here. The police are over stretched and are facing more dangerous problems with guns, knives and drugs. They cannot provide the day to day presence on our streets to reassure the community that want to. On many occasions, they seem to be more a quasi-military presence. This is regrettable but unavoidable given the terrible people that they have to face.

Again total unanimity but no real point to the speeches. We could have dealt with all this by letters, visits to the Government etc.

So we had a motion on breast feeding which was really just an opportunity to attack Andrew Makinson for a poorly expressed tweet. I wanted to speak but was not allowed to.

Then Labour refused to accept an amendment from us designed to correct a statement that the Lib Dem General Election manifesto would have taken money from Liverpool schools. I read out both the Labour and Lib Dem manifesto pieces which were almost identical. I told the Council where the money would come from according to our manifesto. Yet bigotry and bias won the day. Labour will go to any lengths to try and discredit the Lib Dems and deflect attention from their own inadequacies.

Now I have spoken in support of our motion to try and get people from all Parties to work together both inside the Labour Party and outside them to get the Liverpool City Region working properly. Anderson replies with an attack on the Liverpool Echo! This is really low life behaviour. The personal attack on an Echo reporter takes place in a place where he cannot reply. Anderson now seems to be saying that he didn’t say what he said in public and which Mayor Rotheram has responded to. I sometimes think he lives on another planet!! Apparently the two Mayors love each other! He didn’t respond to the complaints about withdrawing staff. He didn’t address the key points of his disagreement. He also didn’t say why he didn’t follow up the offers to work together that he initiated and to which Lib Dems responded.

Mayor Anderson not only didn’t address the issues he did what he normally does and went into personal invective. We were supported by the Liberal Party in this. We don’t always agree on things but sometimes the other Parties do and set a good example. What Mayor Anderson should have done whilst attacking me and the Liverpool Echo sit oi look at his own supporters. I can read politicians faces and many of them (the thinking ones) were not happy. The fact is that everyone within the Council Chamber knows that there is a serious rift between the Mayors and no amount of blustering or denial will stop that.

The Greens played a blinder this Council. They abstained three times on key issues! They were going to vote one way then voted another. They were all over the place.

So about 125 people have just spent an evening either politely supporting each other or slagging each other off. If people came to see us in action they would never vote again!

Posted in Liverpool Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Its downhill all the way for Anderson’s Labour Council

LpoolTH

I was going to put a picture of the Mayor of Liverpool here then I was reminded that I had promised not to scare any more children!!!

Sometimes it’s only when you look back that you see the signs that change was on the way. “Ah yes”, people say in hindsight, “that was the event, the week, the person that started the change”.

In Liverpool, however, things are much easier. I predict that this is the week that will turn the tide for Anderson’s Labour Party in Liverpool and that the decline will be seen to have started this week. This might seem a bit precocious from a party with only 4 councillors out of 90 and I am not saying it will be very quick or very easy but Anderson & Co are now firmly on the slippery path to defeat.

I think this for two reasons:

  1. I have been out door knocking throughout Liverpool. I know what people are saying about the Labour Party in the City. They are claiming Labour is corrupt and incompetent. I don’t actually believe that the Labour Party or individual Labour members are corrupt. It’s just that collectively they refuse to stand up to the man that they call, with no sense of affection, Uncle Joe. But incompetent, misguided and frequently deluded yes!!!

 

  1. There are seven policy issues which are coming together and to which the Council has no real response.

St John’s Market

£2.5 million blown away and huge losses being made by the council and traders on a daily basis. A programme of design and implementation that my colleague, Cllr Juarez, is demanding should be investigated by the Regeneration Select Committee. Typically, the council failed to involve the people with the best knowledge of the market – its traders – in any of the planning and implementation of the changes. Instead of a bustling market place they have created a sterile set of cubicles which have the appearance of a cross between an accident and emergency unit and a morgue.

The hole in Edge Lane

In Japan, a sink hole which opened up in a major Tokyo shopping street which was at least 4 times the size of the Edge Lane hole was completely filled in with all services restored in 10 days. In Liverpool, the small hole will take at least 3 months causing major problems in an area which already has major traffic problems.

The treatment of Mr Fitzgerald

For the 7 weeks since the last council meeting I have been try in g to find out from senior council officers what the advice was, who gave it and in response to what questions and information. The response from the Council has largely been on the lines of, “please sir the cat ate my homework!” Partial responses, evasive responses, tardy responses. All wholly unacceptable in the view of the senior team of advisers I have assembled from outside Liverpool. Two key questions remain unanswered. What are we paying/have paid Counsel and/or solicitors for in respect of Mr Fitzgerald’s previous employment in Rotheram which ended 15 years ago. What advice did we get in response to the position of Mr Fitzgerald having agreed to get paid for no work in contrast to 58 people who since 2009 have been treated differently and ‘suspended without prejudice”.

China Town

We are currently nursing a loss of £900,000+ for this scheme. Plenty of warning were given by plenty of people about the need for a high level of due diligence on the Council’s behalf before they went ahead with this. This has clearly been totally ignored. There are 3 other big schemes foundering at the moment because of legal and financial difficulties but still we give permission for more. The idea that we can CPO this site and deal with it that way is fanciful. CPOs take years, through in administrators, foreign investors etc and you are in deep bureaucracy territory.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

This is not just a ‘plaque on the wall in the Town Hall’ as the Mayor claims. The preservation and reuse of our fabulous city centre buildings should be the springboard to HIGH QUALITY new development. Instead because our Local Development Framework is 6 years late we have no effective controls over building quality. Building high level, multi-storey tat near the WHS will cause us to lose it and with it the distinctiveness of our City.

The fall out of Mayors

The Rotheram/Anderson fall out and the withdrawal of staff from the City Region team is not good enough. We all need to pull together to deal with the problems are facing at any time. But these are not normal times! Brexit is casting a long shadow over the UK as a whole and Liverpool in particular. Working together is not desirable it is essential. To see the two most important leaders in the LCR squabbling and letting Greater Manchester zoom even further ahead of us is a disgrace.

The suggested CPO of the Adelphi

Everyone knows that what should be the best hotel in Liverpool is a city disgrace. I was put into a Britannia Hotel in London recently – when I found out I walked out! But a CPO? As mentioned above these are lengthy and complicated. We also need sound legal reasons for doing it. But then what?  We have been the markets authority running markets in Liverpool for 800 years and still make a mess up of running St John’s. Who seriously out there thinks that the Council with its total lack of business acumen could run anything bigger than a sweet shop!?

What we are seeing throughout the council is bluster and bollocks! Schemes announced that disappear without trace. Schemes announced with no idea about whether the money can be found for them. Leaderless both managerially and politically Liverpool is just about coping but every day makes it more and more difficult. It’s time to clean out the Augean stables folks. Will you come and help us?

Posted in Liverpool Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The continuing scandal of Adult Social Care

Together

Me with my Carer!!  Erica and I hope that we have a long, healthy and happy third age but we must all be aware of the problems that we face as longevity increases.

I am attending three events next week looking at adult social care. This is good because it means that adult social care is now firmly on the agenda of many organisation.

Like many I was pleased that adult social care became a prominent feature of the General Election. Again, like many, I was displeased with the way that it became a political football largely because of the crass Tory U-turn on a U-turn within days during the election.

The Government has put an extra £2 billion into the system this year. BUT that money will not be as well or properly spent as it could be. The Government has, three months into the financial year introduced a number of national priorities about how the money should be spent and financial penalties to councils if the money is not used to meet centrally defined targets. Those targets are not always the ones that are most relevant in specific areas. For example, money is currently needed in most council areas to stabilise and support the present system and its providers. This need has largely been ignored by the Government who expect new services for their money.

The injection of an additional £2 billion for social care in the Spring Budget is, of course a step in the right direction. But it is not sufficient to deal with all immediate- and short-term pressures. The LGA estimates that social care faces an annual funding gap of £2.3 billion by 2019/20.

It is now vital that the Government brings forward its proposals for the future of social care as a matter of urgency. Lib Dems believe that cross-party consensus is an essential foundation for the process of developing viable solutions for the long-term.  This is not a problem capable of a quick fix. The demographic changes are long term. More of us will live longer and with more time in ill health. Unless we understand that the system is unsustainable. It’s not only a problem for the elderly. Increasingly, children who would have died at birth or at a very young age are living lives almost long as children born without such difficulties. That surely is a good thing but it comes at a cost. Looking after such people and adults can cost up to £50,000 a year.

The Government’s proposals must not focus solely on funding and mechanisms to bring more resource into the system. As important, we need to consider what type of care and support system we want for the future; this must include exploration of the clear links between care and housing. One of the events I am going to presided over by Baroness Greengross in the House of Lords is a meeting with the trade body for retirement villages. There is clear proof presented by them that if we can organise housing better it impacts well on the health and experiences of the elderly. It also saves a shed load of money because necessary services can be provided cost effectively.

But retirement villages are only one option. There is an urgent need to better provide a range of housing options to meet the wide variety of housing circumstances, aspirations and needs of people – our family, friends and communities – as they age. There is both growing evidence and a clear policy steer towards recognising and strengthening the role of housing in relation to a range of health and wellbeing issues including how well designed housing for older people can help reduce the need for adult social care and  demand on NHS services (e.g. reducing residential care admissions, preventing hospital admissions/reablement, combatting isolation or loneliness, better at home care coordination, a wider community resource, and opportunities for greater personal and community resilience).

Within the diverse mix of different strategies – from building new age friendly homes, to shaping and enabling the market, integrating housing with health and care, and developing new models for adapting and creating smart homes – local leadership and collaboration between local partners is critical throughout.

Whilst it is clear that councils can help enable partnership working to deliver improved outcomes through housing, it is not easily replicated. Local government needs the resources, the tools and, crucially, the buy-in from all health and housing partners, to make it happen.

Outside housing there is much that councils could do to reduce the length of ill health by the positive promotion of good health strategies. The work that we do with our parks; community centres; libraries; bus passes; good eating campaigns; companionship programmes, often done for us by community groups are every bit as important. But these services are increasingly under threat. Council’s budgets have been cut by anything between 25 and 50% by the reduction in central government grant.

Indeed at present we have no idea what our budgets will be in 3 years’ time as the Government has back tracked on its proposal to leave all business rates with local authorities. Most urban authorities with high densities of poverty cannot cope with just the 50% business rate, council tax and service charges. Unless we get clear direction quickly for what will happen after March 2020 we will be unable to properly plan for the delivery of services with long-term contracts. Unless we can give long-term contracts, we will continually have to ‘spot buy’ services which are not as good and more expensive.

So things are not looking good either for the elderly; those moving into that category; or those that provide services to them. It goes without saying that in the Lib Dem view we must try and reach a consensus on these issues and set in place a structure and funding which will stand the test of time.

Posted in Health Service Debate | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The resurgence of Militant in Liverpool

Momentum_logo

The Militant of the 80’s which so badly damaged Liverpool has become the Momentum of the 10’s

As most people know I’ve been around a long time!  I was a Councillor here in the 80’s when the Militant Tendency rose to power. I saw the destruction of the Labour Party and the destruction of the City. I watched as 32,000 people were given redundancy notices. I watched as housing maintenance budgets were stripped to provide new housing whilst existing housing went to wrack and ruin. I watched while the Swiss Banks cleaned up with exorbitant interest rates and the council failed to collect vast amounts of rates from taxpayers.

Of course, as a Liberal then Liberal Democrat I fought them with my colleagues with everything that we could. It took 2 years for the Millies to be got out with a brief period of Liberal Control and a longer period of stolid and unimaginative Labour control. It was only in 1998 when the Lib Dems retook control of the council that we could begin to put right the appalling education problems of the City; pay off the banks and, in the long term more importantly, to change the image for the City and attract inward investment.

For the decades of the 80’s and 90’s there was no inward investment of the city from the private sector and precious little from the public sector as the competence of the Council and the direction of the City were doubted.

And now Militant has returned. Of course, not quite the same people. Many of the people who have joined the new Militant – Momentum – were not born then. But some are the same people with less hair and even less imagination!. I can see old (literally) Millies across the City Region urging on a new generation of their brethren. But young or old the preaching is the same. A false hope that ‘tooth fairy’ economics could link with ideology of the extreme left to create a latter-day Utopia. Regrettably in Liverpool what was created was a modern-day dystopia. That is happening again and will, again, have terrible consequences for our City if it is not stopped.

You might think after all I have read about the present Labour administration that it could not get worse. The way Labour runs Liverpool is a disgrace which more and more people are becoming aware of. It:

  • Lacks transparency and openness
  • Has an unsafe relationship between Officers and Members
  • Does peculiar deals with developers who aren’t quite top notch
  • Has no scrutiny
  • Refuses to bench mark itself against other similar councils
  • Is failing to contribute to the wider actions of councils across the Liverpool City Region
  • Has no due process of scrutiny
  • Is racking up increased borrowing

But if you don’t think things could get worse I certainly do. My latest musings have, of course, been set off by the takeover of Wavertree Constituency by Momentum. I watched the gloomy faces of Liverpool Labour Councillors at the LGA Conference who had been thrown out by an almost complete takeover. 9 out of 10 positions now occupied by Momentum supporters.

The first thing they did was to challenge the local MP. According to the Daily Mirror a statement was issued that she was responsible to them not the electorate of Wavertree. This is, of course, a perversion of parliamentary democracy. Only in totalitarian regimes such as fascism and communism is the rule of the Party of paramount importance. In our democracy Parties exist to get people of like mind elected. Those people are then the servants of the people they represent and not the Party that put them there.

The things that Momentum are proposing are in essence the things that the current Greek Government said BEFORE they got elected. They were going to take on the capitalists, the financiers, refuse to pay back loans, nationalise this and privatise that. Well that’s what they promised but those ideas collapsed within weeks. In the end, the deals that they got were worse and more costly than the deal they could have had. They realised, too late, that there is no tooth fairy and father Christmas who will pay for these things and that to progress there needs to be pragmatic policies not empty slogans.

Having said that Lib Dems agree with many of the objectives of Momentum

  • We believe that owners of businesses have too strong a hand and that there need to be moves towards principles of co-ownership which recognise that there can be no profits without workers.
  • We believe that our society is too materialistic and greedy. People earn vast amounts of money that they cannot possibly need and chuck away on conspicuous consumption whilst others lack the necessities of life.
  • We believe in internationalism although of a type very distinct from theirs
  • We believe that we have to safeguard the planet
  • We believe that everyone has the right in the UK to love in a warm, safe, appropriate home in a safe, clean and green neighbourhood.

Above all we believe that the people of Liverpool need to be given a hope for the future that will not be delivered by the Labour Party which currently controls the council. In some parts of our City there is understandable despair for the future. New ways; new techniques; new employment patterns are leaving behind too many of our young people. The jobs that they could have gone to just a decade ago are disappearing or have already disappeared. The education system in large parts of the City Region is not supporting them or others who have already left the formal education system into good, new reasonably paying jobs.

But the way forward is not y extremism and militancy. It is by setting a long-term future for our City Region. It is by assembling partnerships who support that vision. It is by making our public services fit for purpose and adapted to the new pressures and opportunities. It is about involving the people of Liverpool in taking control of the levers of power and not by concentrating power in the hands of a narrow cadre.

Only the Lib Dems can do that. As I have door knocked around South Liverpool since the General Election it is abundantly clear to me that many people are looking to us to take on incompetent Labour next May. That is what we will do. That is the way forward for Liverpool.

Posted in Liverpool Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments